The business of self-deception

Criminal profilers, based on their success rate, should be grouped with tarot card readers and psychics.

Most people, I think, find criminal history interesting. Whether it be Bonnie and Clyde, the history of the Mafia or how cocaine cartels control entire countries, the lives of criminals can often be an entertaining escape from our regular, law-abiding lives of paying bills and stopping at stop signs.

I’ve always been fascinated by the mystery of Jack the Ripper, the serial killer who stalked London’s east end in the autumn of 1888. He was the first modern media killer, committed unspeakable crimes and not only escaped capture, his identity is completely unknown even to this day.

It was with some interest then that I watched a documentary about Saucy Jack a few nights ago; on the show was a retired FBI profiler who gave his expert opinion about the killer. The FBI expert stated Jack was likely not the smartest cookie in the carton. In fact, our former behavioral expert noted Jack wasn’t much more than a lucky moron.

Criminal profiling is the so-called science of examining evidence left by an unknown criminal and then creating a “profile,” said to be an uncannily accurate description of the culprit which will assist police in catching him or her. Criminal profilers, though, tend to fool themselves with broad generalizations that could apply to virtually any person, not just the culprit in question. Most skeptics consider criminal profiling no better than tarot card fortunes or palm reading.

The FBI stated Jack the Ripper eluded capture by the largest, best equipped and best trained (for the time) police department, the London Metropolitan Police, simply because he was lucky. They claim the Ripper was impetuous, selecting his victims on public streets, killing five women in horrendous manners but escaped caught because fortune smiled on him. I beg to differ.

Real detective work would reveal that it wouldn’t be impetuous to approach victims at night in London’s east end circa 1888 because of the vast number of people living and working there, even late at night. As well, the Ripper was likely a resident of the area, not as so many conspiracy theorists feel a member of royalty etc,. slumming in Whitechapel while he slaked his homicidal appetites. As a resident, Jack would have known the streets and alleys of the area like the back of his hand, allowing him to pick secluded areas to take his victims and make very quick escapes. Also, as a resident of Whitechapel, Jack’s presence wouldn’t have alerted others. Whoever he was, he belonged there.

There’s another famous case that criminal profilers failed to solve: the Unabomber. This was a fellow in the early 80’s who mailed bombs to random people in order to draw attention to a bizarre anti-technology philosophy. As it turns out, a portion of the Unabomber’s manifesto was printed in a newspaper, and the bizarre rant was recognized by a Unabomber family member. Said family member phoned police and told them where Ted Kaczynski could be found. Before the family member came forward the FBI had no idea who the Unabomber was.

Robert Todd Carroll, a well-known skeptic and operator of The Skeptic’s Dictionary, pointed out the ridiculous mistakes an FBI criminal profiler made in trying to create a profile of the Unabomber: “The FBI said the Unabomber would be in his late 30’s or early 40’s. Kaczynski was 53 when caught. The FBI said he’d be 5’10” to 6′ tall, 165 pounds, with reddish-blond hair, a thin mustache, and a ruddy complexion. Kaczynski was 5’8″, weighed 143 pounds, had brown hair, pale skin, and was bearded. The profile predicted he would be a blue-collar worker with a high school degree. Kaczynski hadn’t had a job in 25 years and earned a Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Michigan in addition to being a graduate of Harvard University.” The FBI was wrong on every count.

Maybe the FBI should have hired a psychic to help the profiler.

Stu Salkeld is the new editor of The Leduc/Wetaskiwin Pipestone Flyer and writes a regular column for the paper.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta has 3,651 active cases of COVID-19. (File photo)
432 new COVID cases sets another record Friday

Central zone holds steady at 126 active cases

"We are looking seriously at the spread and determining what our next steps should be," says Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, as the daily number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb.
427 new COVID cases is highest in Alberta ever

Central zone has 126 active cases of COVID-19

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Temporary COVID-19 testing sites coming to Wetaskiwin and Ponoka

The Wetaskiwin location will open Oct. 23, 2020 and the Ponoka location will open Oct. 29.

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
City and County of Wetaskiwin reporting active cases

Both the City of Wetaskiwin and County of Wetaskiwin have active cases.

Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw updates media on the Covid-19 situation in Edmonton on Friday March 20, 2020. nbsp;Alberta is reporting it's highest daily number of COVID-19 cases, with 364 new infections. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta confirmed 323 COVID-19 cases Tuesday

Central zone active cases at 145

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau. (Black Press Media)
VIDEO: One day until B.C. voters go to the polls in snap election defined by pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan’s decision to call an election comes more than a year ahead of schedule and during a pandemic

Ryen Williams, 11, with a lost miniature horse at JJ Collett Oct. 23. Photo by Don Williams
UPDATE: Owners found

Father and son found him while out for a walk at JJ Collett

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

U.S. border officers at the Peace Arch crossing arrested two men on California warrants this week. (File photo)
Ottawa predicts system delays, backlogs unless court extends life of refugee pact

Canada and the United States recognize each other as safe places to seek protection

Conservative member of Parliament Michelle Rempel Garner, left to right, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and Conservative Deputy Leader Candice Bergen arrive to hold a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
No-confidence showdown over sweeping Tory motion on government handling of pandemic

The Conservative motion is to be put to a vote Monday and has the support of both the Bloc Québécois and NDP

From l-r., first lady Melania Trump, President Donald Trump, moderator Kristen Welker of NBC News, Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden on stage at the conclusion of the second and final presidential debate Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Trump, Biden fight over the raging virus, climate and race

Republican president declared the virus, which killed more than 1,000 Americans on Thursday alone, will “go away.”

JJ Collett Natural Area Foundation held its AGM on Oct. 19 at the Ponoka Legion. (Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News)
De-listing Alberta parks creates ‘risk’ for coal mining: CPAWS

Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society speaks at JJ Collett AGM

(File photo)
Ponoka’s seen rise in relationship ‘disharmony,’ domestic violence during COVID-19

While there has been an increase in files, not all have required charges to be laid

ACC President and CEO Ken Kobly spoke to Ponoka Chamber of Commerce members over Zoom on Oct. 20. (Image: screenshot)
Alberta chambers are ‘411’ to members, government: ACC president

Changes to government supports, second wave and snap election

Most Read