Pat Brown is not the only criminal profiler, but she is certainly one of the best known. Her book, The Profiler: My Life Hunting Serial Killers and Psychopaths, is fascinating on several levels. It is a memoir, a collection of true crime stories, and a plea for better training of police in the profiler’s arts.
Many of the cases discussed have a sexual component and Brown details two apparent suicides. Many of her observations seem obvious, but then why don’t the cops get it? According to Pat Brown, it’s because they are not equipped with the information they need to do their jobs.
Home-schooling, stay-at-home mom Brown became interested in profiling at a time when there were no courses offered for people who were not in law enforcement. A murder was committed not far from her home, and she became convinced that a young man renting a room from her was the perpetrator, or — at the very least — a person of interest.
Brown analyzed the case and then went through the man’s garbage, finding a great deal of suspicious “evidence.” She took her suspicions and the evidence to the local police only to be treated like “That’s a good housewife. Now go home and make a batch of brownies and forget about all of this crime stuff; leave it to the pros.” The evidence may have been valuable and her reasoning valid, but authorities did nothing with it.
Knowing that a killer was on the loose (although no longer in her home) and recognizing the unfairness of the official inactivity on the case, Brown felt she had to do something. That something was a self-taught crash course on criminal profiling. She studied crime scene analysis, forensics, and psychopathology. Offering her services pro bono to police departments, sometimes she was welcome, others she was not.
Families of victims soon sought her out to help in cases that were so cold they were arctic. The book details her investigation and conclusions of a dozen cases. This is where it gets odd. Not one of those investigations lead to an arrest, no less a conviction.
In some cases, the police agreed with her conclusions but needed more evidence; in one a prosecutor declined to pursue the case; in another, she was treated rudely and shown the door by a detective; in still others, nothing ever came of her recommendations. How frustrating it must have been to be certain of a party’s guilt and know the police or prosecutors were going to let the doer walk. Many of her cases are of the serial killer variety — even more frustrating when you consider that the psychopath will probably kill again.
Based on the facts as presented in The Profiler, Pat Brown’s deductions are sound and her conclusions are reasonable. There’s not a criminal case included that doesn’t cry out for a closer look at someone, followed by an arrest, trial, and lengthy incarceration.
This is the reality of what a profiler experiences. She can study the crime scene and photos, interview witnesses and suspects, analyze forensics, and deduce up a storm. But that’s where the job ends. No matter how many hours she devotes to a case or how well she establishes a suspect and motive, there’s nothing she can do with the information, other than share. We all know what reality does, and in this case — for the reader — it does not satisfy.
Neat endings are never guaranteed in books. As readers, when something is as clear cut as so many of the cases in The Profiler, we are disappointed when there is no resulting action. Like neat endings, convictions cannot be guaranteed, but we expect that there would be further investigation and an arrest. That’s what watching too much television does to us.
In the typical police procedural, a crime is committed, detectives investigate, medical examiners and forensics analyze, profilers profile and the perpetrator is caught and brought to trial (except when a vigilante saves the state the time and expense). That’s fiction. In real life, there is nothing in the Constitution or anywhere else that says that all crimes must be thoroughly investigated, and all suspects must be arrested and prosecuted. Therefore, a killer can be known to investigators and never face a jail cell or interrogation room, no less a court room.
Pat Brown makes a solid case for the better education of police officers, detectives, and investigators. She believes that if the police are taught to properly preserve and record a scene, understand psychopathology, and analyze facts and evidence, the capture and conviction rate would improve, thus getting predators off the street and into cells.
The crimes detailed shock and intrigue, Brown’s experiences captivate, but the meat of The Profiler: My Life Hunting Serial Killers and Psychopaths is found in the issues regarding attitudes toward profiling and the need for increased training of investigators. Brown has been at this for 20 years; let’s hope her appeals are reaching the right ears.Powered by Sidelines