This paper explores psychological profiling and the situations under which it can be helpful or the complete opposite. It gathers from different sources to demonstrate how psychological profiling can be of benefit to those who use it or, in terms of one’s work ethic, often turn out to be catastrophic.
Godwin (2002) argues that crime is structured often and follows unique trends that aid in identifying offenders. It is through this profiling that trends are created and offenders are acquired. Alison et al (2010) emphasize that this technique was used by the FBI in the 1970s to create trends for solving criminal cases. Profiling may be done in three different ways to establish conclusions based on available circumstances. It may be through behavioral patterns, statistical evidence or clinical practitioner’s approach. This information put together generates meaningful evidence that can be used to crack down crime (Hellqvist, 2012).
However, with profiling, it often tends to turn out as racist or sexist, at least for most cases. Certain crime is solved and patterns established point crime to a particular kind of race or sex. This could be true, but not for all cases. After the shooting incidents, notably, Ferguson and Missouri, there were increased protests after there was no action then taken for the fatal shooting and death of a one Michael Brown who was a suspect to attacking a police officer in uniform. This increased violence and protests across New Jersey and loss of confidence in the law keeping agencies by the public.
It is notated that there is a significant level of profiling in the traffic department. Because those in uniform are mainly of a particular race, there is a lot of profiling done especially by traffic officers. They tend to target a particular race of people as criminals and often build a mountain out of a hill for scenarios that would otherwise be small. With that, it builds a gap between people. It was observed that most traffic searches and stops are done to Latin and African origin citizens (Department of Law and Public Safety, 2005). This leads to bias from both the law enforcement agencies and the public.
Psycological profiling in one way or the other encourages harassment. Kimberly Zollitsch who graduated in July 1988 from the State Police Academy filed a complaint about being discriminated against in Port Norris 1989. She was being called by various names in the stations she was assigned to. This included derogatory pictures and poems that focused on her weight, sexual orientation and her service to the police force. This psychologically affected her ability to perform to her best of expectations. In addition, Trooper John Oliva was harassed for his views against racial profiling. This shows there was reasonable injustice within the police department as he believed these threats were made by the Lords of Discipline.
As such, with the vandalism of his things and constant threat, Oliva lived in fear and in October 2002, he committed suicide. He opposed the idea of orchestrated road stops to particular ethnic groups. Oliva committing suicide was due to frustration, fear and emotional distress. From these two studies, it is observed that disparities within New Jersey State Troopers had adverse effects on the victims and the society as well. In the aftermath of these events, there was only increased fear instilled among those who followed suite a similar path like the victims.
This reduces the level of confidence and trust in the department by the society as it is not exemplary to what is supposed to be done.
Claims of informal groups like Lords of Discipline are formed due to profiling that impart fear and discomfort to those who are different from the “good” ones. As such, people resign from their positions or are forced to involuntarily move to new settlements in fear of being suspects of crime with regards to their being different. Psychological effects are experienced by those who are attacked and this disrupts not only their health but also their way of life.
Profiling increases crime within a community as those out of the spotlight commit crime knowing they are protected. It gives them cover as they are not seen as probable suspects to crime. Sometimes, even when discovered, because of the tagging done to a particular group of people, they often walk scotch-free. As such, there is increased level of crime in the long run.
There should be different ways the gaps caused by these disparities are reduced to create harmony within the force. This can be done through increasing the percentage of minorities that graduate into the organization. This reduces the discrimination gap and therefore improves relations amongst people.
Law enforcement professional’s agencies should use their professional intelligence as opposed to racial profiling while on duty. It almost becomes difficult to separate the two when doing work especially under intelligence where psychological profiling is applied. This will slowly but steadily restore the level of confidence the people have in the enforcement organizations as opposed to the present trend being followed. This can be done through amendment of the law so as to keep those personnel in the right direction.
In addition, passing an act that emphasizes a rigorous study into the data collected from traffic stops; including the race of the suspect. Also, legislation on traffic stops that control the circumstances under which stops are to be done and prevent the use of the fourth amendment rights in unfamiliar or misinterpreted circumstances that harbor profiling within the force. Increased training should be taken up to keep professionals open minded about crime. Many times, wrong leads are taken because of established patterns in crime and thus profiles are wrongly built.
Raising awareness of bias among police leaders and officers creates a given state of urgency to end discrimination or bias with regards to hiring, promoting or firing employees within the force. It also protects the rights. Also, policies that limit the impact of bias can be taken on. This in a way limits the aftermath of bias in extreme cases. Departments should have their doors wide spread to invite and be open to research so as to fix the continued problems existing within the force so as to reduce the level of discrimination within the force. There should be constant rotation and transfer of those who have served in the same office over years so as to reduce the ability of having constant influence of a particular office. This reduces bias and discrimination problems within positions of authority. In the wake of all this, body cameras would play a vital role in fighting discrimination. This positively influences the behavior and use of proper procedure when carrying out official work.
It is also important not to criminalize many scenarios as this creates the need for punishments. This wastes time as officers follow up on petty crimes that lead to bias. It is important that those officers who are biased or use their positions of authority to administer their power in a way that shows that they are racist or sexist to face the long arm of the law. This checks out all the possible disparities existing within the state department. Those policies that are in place that encourage racism should be amended if not banned.
Profiling brings up ethical concerns that destroy ones work and quality of service. It therefore becomes a challenge to properly manage scenarios that challenge ones’ ethical conduct. In such a case, to protect ones ethical conduct while performing their job, one can carry out detailed analysis of profiled data before conclusively deciding on a particular case. Also, declaring conflict of interest in certain scenarios will prevent any cases of ethical concerns while carrying out psychological profiling. Some cases will demand that someone gives their views and yet they in one way or the other have an attachment to such a case that will bias their judgment.
In conclusion, psychological profiling comes with a series of advantages, especially in areas connected with solving complex crime. However, there are ethical concerns that should be taken into consideration when using this kind of method. More importantly, the ability to recognize these concerns and deal with them in the best possible way is a cornerstone to everything. When not considered, they could significantly influence the reputation of an organization.
Alison L., Goodwill A., Almond L., van denHeuvel C., &Winter J. (2010). Pragmatic solutions to offender profiling and behavioural investigative advice. Legal and Criminological Psychology, 15, 115-132.
Department of Law and Public Safety (2005). Lords of Discipline Task Force – Report of Investigations and Findings. Retrieved on May 2, 2017 from http://www.nj.gov/oag/newsreleases06/lod-report.pdf
Gowdin, M. (2002). Reliability, Validity, and Utility of Criminal Profiling Topologies. Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology, 17(1), 1-18.
Hellqvist, S. (2012). Offenders’ Interrogation Behavior: The Importance of Crime Scene Characteristics and Corroborating Evidence. Retrieved on May 2, 2017 from http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:549859/FULLTEXT01.pdf