The investigative technique, most commonly referred to as criminal profiling, has recently risen in popularity
both in practical use and media portrayals. A quick visit to any bookstore will reveal the popularity of the
true crime section, and the recent flood of fiction works with a likable lead detective who profiles the
offender is equal in volume.
Depending on the literature one reads, the professional development of profiling over the past several
decades will most likely be attributed to the work of the Behavioral Sciences Unit (BSU) at the FBI
Academy, Quantico, Virginia. More specifically, a few key agents will be known by name, if not by
reputation, including John Douglas, Robert Ressler and Roy Hazelwood amongst others. Many of the mass-
market conceptions often include an agent as a representative of the BSU working on the case with local law
enforcement. While the role of the Bureau in the development of profiling cannot be denied, they are often
afforded a greater involvement in criminal investigations than they have in reality, and many of the agents
(current and retired) are often attributed with developing methods that were in place before they even
reached the FBI.
Profiling most notably can be traced back to work done in the latter part of the last century, and possibly
before this in a variety of forms. There has been a definite growth since this early work, with a diverse array
of individuals doing a great deal of both research and practical work in criminal profiling.
It is the purpose of this article to explore the historical roots of modern criminal profiling, and to provide
insight into how the modern methods have developed. Firstly, a very general history of profiling shall be
covered. Following this, the development of the FBI method will be examined, along with a brief discussion
about how this method is applied. Thirdly, the methods of David Canter, a psychologist from the United
Kingdom will be examined and a discussion about his methods shall follow. Lastly, the method known as
Behavioral Evidence Analysis, developed by Brent Turvey, a forensic scientist from the USA shall be
covered. It is not intended to provide an in depth critique of each method, rather, in keeping with the theme
of the paper to discuss the historical development of each, which will include a brief overview of each
methods major theories.
Depending on who and what you read, you will often get a very contradictory report of exactly who
developed criminal profiling. This is especially true when it comes to the FBI, with many retired agents
claiming sole responsibility for the development of many of the methods still in use today. It should come as
no surprise that profiling in one way, shape, or form was employed long before the Bureau even came into
existence. For many years, the work of individual psychologists and psychiatrists could be described as
profiling, in that they often provided advice to police agencies as to the type of perpetrator they were