Dealing With Being an FBI Profiler
Criminal investigators undergo a lot of pressure and stress during different cases. Matthew Leone states a really good point of what stress does to someone. He states the three-stage process identified by Selye, which connected psychological stress to physical disease, became known as the General Adaptation Syndrome. The first stage of this stress response was called the Alarm reaction. In this stage, the reaction to the onset of stress is immediate, but short-term. This is where humans would exhibit a “fight or flight” reaction to this new stress. While this stage is brief, immune system suppression was still found to occur toward the end of this stage. In the second (Resistance) stage, the body is attempting to adjust to prolonged stress. He continues by saying Metabolic changes occur as a result of these adaptations, and if the stress does not subside, the body eventually moves into the third, or Exhaustion, stage. In this stage, the physical resources of the body are depleted and the organ function is beginning to weaken due to the prolonged and unrelenting effect of these psychological stressors. When the individual has reached the Exhaustion stage, stress has been experienced for an extended period of time, and physical function may diminish gradually, or it may collapse quickly. The immune system may become corrupted, resulting in infections or other diseases due to reduced immunity. Heart attacks and strokes also become possible due to high blood pressure which often accompanies prolonged stress (Selye, 1936). With each different case comes a different kind of stress and a different way of coping with what has been seen. For example, when it comes to murder cases as Dr. Laurence Miller states the sheer magnitude and shock effect of many mass-murder scenes and the violence, mutilation and sadistic brutality associated with many serial killings – especially those involving children – often exceed the defense mechanisms and coping abilities of even the most jaded investigator. In addition to that he also goes on to explaining how problems with other cases can be very emotionally damaging. As the investigation drags on, the inability to solve the crime and close the case further frustrates and demoralizes the assigned officers and seems to jeeringly proclaim the hollowness of society’s notions of fairness and justice.
As noted above, all the more disturbing are situations where the killer is known but the existing evidence is insufficient to support an arrest or conviction. This is one of the hardest to deal with, nothing is more shameful then having eyes on the killer and knowing who he is but there is just not enough to arrest him. To know how close the suspect was to being caught but because of the lack of evidence it leaves a feeling of such guilt and as if the killer is taunting the person who couldn’t gather enough evidence to convict this suspect. Stress and self-recrimination are further magnified when the failure to apprehend the perpetrator is caused by human error, as when an officer’s misguided actions or breach of protocol leads to loss or damage of evidence or suppression of testimony, allowing the perpetrator to walk. With that being stated it is a very exhausting effort in trying to solve these murder cases. Having a perpetrator walk free because of damaged or lost evidence can cause a person’s work quality to become hurt, they could start making sloppy errors which could increase a person’s vulnerability to more stress and failure with cases. Dr. Miller explains in rare cases when it comes to no-arrest cases, and particularly those involving children, some homicide or sex crime investigators may become emotionally involved with the victims’ families and remain in contact with them for many years. Some detectives become obsessed with a particular case and continue to work on it at every available moment, sometimes to the point of compromising their work on other cases and leading to a deterioration of health and family life. When it comes to cases related to sex crime investigations there is more of a frustration or sadness when it comes to those who were more vulnerable like children or the elderly. Most cases are hard to get through on a normal basis and it takes a lot of mental strength and coping skills to finish certain assignments. But those involving children that ended without an arrest or caught criminal can be even more damaging to someone’s mental process. Causing them to spend even more time on this case than others just to bring answers to the families that lost their children. Criminal investigators need to use coping skills regularly when doing their assignments to be able to finish them effectively. Dr. Miller has stated some strategies that criminal investigators use to cope and has gone into detail about each of them.
First, we have the defense mechanism and mental toughening, this is used as the most familiar way of blocking up unpleasant material who are used to taking a tough, suck-it-up attitude toward unpleasant aspects of the job. Next there is a strategy called compartmentalization or isolation, this affect is where negative emotions are separated out and put in a “mental file cabinet” in order to allow the rest of the officer’s cognitive faculties to keep functioning. Individuals differ in their ability to make this mental separation without undue emotional leakage into other areas of work and family life. Another strategy is intellectualization which is another strategy used to describe the process of detoxifying an emotionally wrenching task or experience by adopting the stance of detached, objective, intellectual curiosity: for example, the emotional revulsion and horror of encountering the remains of a sexually mutilated corpse is diffused and diluted by immersion in the technical scientific minutiae of crime-scene investigation and offender-profiling. Then we have the strategy of sublimation which refers to the process of turning a “bad” impulse into a socially acceptable, or even admirable “good” activity or vocation. For this strategy it can easily take the impulses that many people would consider bad or not natural and channel them into something acceptable while still getting that release. Humor is a strategy that plays a big role in coping when it comes to this job field. Being able to laugh about the horrors people see and the insane serial killers that walk this earth really helps with being able to play off that those things actually exist. Peer support and healthy humor from the people and the investigative team in the work place also play a big part in helping those in this work field stay sane.
With professionalism begins with a certain attitude that says the investigator will do his or her best because of a general service orientation and specifically because the work provides professional satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment. Professionalism encompasses the physical space in which the investigator works. There is no reason for the investigator’s office to be unnecessarily grim, but bear in mind that this office will have a wide variety of professionals and civilians circulating through it – from liaison officers of other agencies in multijurisdictional investigations, to distraught family members of slain or assaulted victims – so officers should choose their decor accordingly. Certainly, explicit illustrations, crime scene souvenirs or other inappropriate decorations should not be in plain sight. Confidentiality is an essential part of professionalism. As Dr. Miller talks about, Victims and their families must be certain that their sensitive material – testimony transcripts, crime scene photographs, videotapes, property used for evidence – will be seen only by those directly involved in solving and prosecuting the case. Aside from being the right and ethical thing to do, the assurance of reasonable privacy and dignity serves the practical function of encouraging better cooperation from victims and potential witnesses, which may yield information vital to closing the case. This helps give the families a piece of mind that the whole world won’t be watching or see the things that happened to their child or loved one. In a sense the case, crime scene tapes and photographs will be kept quiet and professional.
Professionalism extends to the investigator’s language and behavior. Again, this is not to encourage undertaker-like solemnity or schoolmarmish over correctness, but maintaining a certain decorum of speech and demeanor is important for the public and for co-workers. Remember, sex crimes investigators must struggle with the “creep factor” even among their colleagues, so anything that contributes to the impression of serious professionalism – proper and respectful handling of gruesome or pornographic evidence, for example – will serve to heighten credibility. Again, without encouraging inappropriate over formality, the use of technical terms, not slang, should be policy, especially when communicating with civilians. All professionals – doctors, lawyers, engineers, psychologists – have their own distinctive terminology that serves to facilitate communication among them and highlights the fact that these are members of serious professions with knowledge and experience in what they do. As Dr. Miller discussed these strategies as stated above, there are far more that play different roles in keeping calm and level headed while working on hard stressful and emotionally draining work.
Crime scene technicians collect evidence related to crime and are therefore exposed to many traumatic situations. The coping strategies they use are thus very important in the process of facing the psychological consequences of such work. The available literature shows that crime scene technicians are an understudied subgroup of police workers. Our study is therefore the first unfolding insights into technicians’ coping strategies, post-traumatic symptomatology and somatic health, based on a sample of 64 male crime scene technicians as Tinkara Pavšič Mrevlje states. Another interesting fact Tinkara Pavšič Mrevlje states is crime scene technicians mainly use avoidance coping strategies. Approach strategies that are more effective in the long-term—i.e. lead to a larger buffering of the effects of traumatic stress—are more frequently used if technicians are familiar with the nature of the task, when they have time to prepare for it, and if they feel that past situations have been positively resolved. Behavioral avoidance strategies were found to be least effective when dealing with traumatic experiences and are also related to more frequent problems of physical health. But aside from all of those things it really means so much when people get through those hard cases without damaging or losing evidence so the criminal doesn’t walk free.