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Questionnaires and Workshops
What is Offender Profiling?
Traditionally offender profiling has involved the process of predicting the likely socio-demographic characteristics of an offender based on information available at the crime scene. In the last 10 years, however, a broader definition of offender profiling has emerged that recognises the range of fruitful, reliable, tested and transparent evidence-based methods by which psychologists might provide advice to the police during investigations. This has, more recently, involved practitioners adopting the term ‘behavioural investigative advisor’, which reflects change of tack from the exclusive focus on the killer and his likely ‘psychological profile’ to the myriad of issues that are involved in investigating crime. Extending well beyond attempts to set suspect parameters or explain the behaviour of offenders in one-off critical incidents, advisors can now assist on issues such as media strategy, interview strategy, DNA intelligence led screening, risk assessments, geographical analysis, veracity of victim statements and the linking of a series of crimes. Thus, as Adhami and Browne (1996) point out, “offender profiling, in all its guises, is [now] viewed as a means of improving crime detection practices” (p. 1).
How is the Centre for Critical Incident Research studying offender profiling?
Professor Alison and Dr Louise Almond are currently working on a project funded by the Leverhulme trust, with support by the National Centre for Policing Excellence (NCPE) Behavioural Investigative Advisors (BIA’s). This project is devoted to an examination of the content of behavioural investigative advice and, more importantly, an examination of the ways in which such advice is interpreted, used and (potentially) misused. We have content analysed all reports written by the NCPE BIA’s in 2005 and have compared this contemporary sample with a previous sample of profiling reports. We are currently conducting a number of tightly controlled experimental studies to investigate what factors influence the interpretation of a profile. The factors investigated include heuristics, biases, stereotypes, presentation, context and individual differences. By gaining a better understanding of these issues profilers will be able to produce clearer transparent reports by helping to reduce any potential misinterpretations between themselves and the police officer. In addition, the CCIR is conducting a number of workshops entitled ‘Enhancing the use of Behavioural Investigative Advice’ which considers the academic and practical functions of profiling as an investigative tool. Individuals who are interested in attending this workshop should e-mail Dr Louise Almond at email@example.com for further details.