Geographic Profiling Careers

In our last blog we talked about the emerging field of geographic profiling, a criminal investigation tool pioneered by Dr. Kim Rossmo. Geographic profiling is used to assist criminal investigators solve cases, involving serial offenders, more efficiently and quickly.

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“Since the 1990s, [Rossmo] has worked with law enforcement on more than 200 serial crime cases, representing about 3,000 crimes spanning the globe,” states the Rights and Freedoms Bulletin (January 28, 2012). “This includes many high-profile cases, such as the Washington, D.C., sniper killings and one of the largest manhunts for a serial rapist in Great Britain’s history.”

Since geographic profiling is a relatively new field, I wanted to find out what type of career opportunities were out there for those passionate about justice and who could see themselves being vigilant and dedicated both in front of a computer using specialized software as well as out in the field talking to investigators, visiting crime scenes and other roles.

Who better to ask than Dr. Rossmo himself, who generously shared some insight and advice via e-mail:

“There are literally only a handful of full-time geographic profilers in the world and they are all experienced police investigators,” wrote Dr. Rossmo.  “Like behavioral profiling, it is not an entry-level position because extensive policing and investigative experience is required (usually a minimum of 10 years).  And only some agencies, in particular the larger ones, have the resources for such a specialized position (e.g., ATF, Scotland Yard, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police).”

Dr. Rossmo adds, however, that some criminal analysts (both in civilian and law enforcement positions) have adopted geographical profiling into their roles after completing relevant training. He says, “So I think the best route forward is to get a solid university education, including GIS (geographic information system) courses if possible, and then apply for a tactical crime analyst position with a larger police agency.”

Doing a simple Google search shows that several institutions offer courses approved by the Committee for Geographic Profiling Analyst Training and Certification (CGPATC), such as the Environmental Criminology Research Inc. (ECRI), the California Crime and Intelligence Analyst Association, the Florida Crime & Intelligence Analyst Association (FCIAA) and several colleges/universities.

Additionally, if you have been working as a sworn officer for some time, you might wish to take your career to the next level and look into becoming trained and certified through the ICIAF (International Criminal Investigative Analysis Fellowship), considered the crème de la crème for certifying both criminal and geographic profilers. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)—which states on its Criminal Investigative Analysis webpage that “ATF is the only Federal agency to have a geographic profiler”—says that all its profilers (criminal and geographic) become certified through the ICIAF after rigorous training.

While there are some critics of geographic profiling, there are also reports of huge successes. For example, the NCJRS stated, in its “Geographic Profiling” abstract from 2003, that “Researchers contend that this geographic profiling [software] system has been used in approximately 500 serial crime cases with an 85 percent success rate. The success of the geographic profiling system lies in the fact that even seemingly random crime spots generate a mapable pattern.”