Photo Courtesy of Netflix
Photo Courtesy of Netflix

What is it really like to be an FBI Profiler for the BAU?

February 18, 2021

Reading Time: 3 minutes
BAU in Criminal Minds

Most of us know the true-crime TV show on Netflix, Criminal Minds, where a section of the FBI called the B.A.U. (Behavior Analysis Unit) have a team that helps local law enforcement with cases they can’t crack. Getting inside of the mind of the “unsub” or the unidentified subject of the case. Tracking their past, what triggered them to commit certain crimes, determine their mental health, and ultimately look at their behaviors when they are alone and around others. Determining what their motivations are and what kind of person they are dealing with in any specific case. Trying to determine why they commit the crimes they do, all while keeping them from killing and/or hurting another person before it’s too late. Profiling serial killers through forensic evidence and psychological analysis. But have you ever wondered, if the job descriptions in the show match reality expectations? Well, there are some things that the tv show got right and got wrong. 

Things They Got Right 

In accordance with SCREEN RANT, the term “unsub” is a term that is used in different sections of the FBI for years regarding an unidentified subject when trying to solve a case and many writers of true-crime also coin the term when coming up with their stories whether it was fiction or not.

Pattern analytics used throughout the show by the character Penelope Garcia is one that is used to help predict the future patterns of the suspects in order to try and get ahead of the “unsub”. Also, seeing if the kind of suspect is a serial killer and narrowing down their suspect pool in any given case. 

The team on the show used to conduct research and get help with current cases when they stumbled upon something that they have never experienced before with an “unsub.” In real-life cases, the FBI has been known to conduct research and consult with past serial killers in prison to help out the case with people and cases evolving every day any new information is helpful. 

When dealing with the hundreds of cases from all kinds of killers, they are ones that mimic those of famous past serial killers. Mimicking their motives, methods of weapon and murder, and even their tactics. So, with the help from the past killers, they are able to figure out if they are a copycat killer or not and why they are exactly copying this specific killer. 

The part that no one likes, the paperwork. Like the show, there is a lot of paperwork to fill out and turn in after every case. 

Things They Got Wrong 

The first thing wrong is how they glorified being a criminal profiler is an FBI position, there are profiler positions in the FBI but they are not the highest job on the chain. The more specific name is a criminal psychologist where unlike shown on the show, they do work in serial killer cases, but are rarely out in the field hunting down the suspect. 

On the show, it shows that it takes no more than two weeks to solve cases when in reality with high profile cases it takes from months to even years to solve certain cases. 

The big high-tech and unlimited resources presented on the show are nothing compared to real-life. There is no private jet given that most of their jobs are spent at the desk and no one presents the cases to them, but is handed a file and goes from there. Nothing really big or special. 

The last thing not truly accurate is that this team pretty much gets handed every case when that is not the case. Also, when working with local law enforcement they don’t take over, but merely work more behind the scenes in compliance with the people who invited them over. In comparison, to the show when they take over and practically act superior to them. 

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