“Mind Hunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit”
- John Douglas & Mark Olshaker -
Mind Hunter… is a book that not only details the life of John Douglas and his career, but also the specifics of the FBI profiling units from the early days of gathering information to what it has become today.
Within its pages Douglas describes many of the reprehensible murders he profiled, amoung them the case of Robert Hansen, a baker and well respected member of the community of Anchorage, Alaska. This case marked the first time profiling had been used as a valid means to support a search warrant.
All the identified victims had been prostitutes or topless dancers – women who were not likely to be reported missing until after their bodies had been discovered. They were also women whom most would deem less worthy to society. Each had been shot several times with what was identified by shell casings as .223 Ruger Mini-14, a hunting rifle commonly owned in the Alaskan frontier, and found in shallow graves. Because there were no apparent bullet holes in the women’s clothing, it was assumed that each was shot naked.
Police suspicions were aroused when a 17 year old prostitute came to the local law enforcement claiming to have been raped and assaulted by a man who matched Robert Hansen’s description.
Since this book is basically an in-depth outline of John Douglas and his career, there is plenty of material for the reader to estimate at his character. Douglas did not have much of a background in science; instead, his focal point seemed to be in maintaining his sporty physique and honing his penchant for knowing exactly what to say in order to diffuse a tough situation, a talent which would later come in handy for his career with the FBI. As a part time job, he worked as a bouncer for a local club and bar in Hempstead, New York, where he learned to categorize people and learn their behaviour. After two years at a college in Montana, Douglas joined the Air Force during a time when the fighting in Vietnam was escalating. At first assigned a clerical job, he transferred himself to Special Services (the athletics department, specifically) by “profiling” the type of guy the department is looking for and presenting that type of person in himself.
After his early discharge in 1970, Douglas met up with Frank Haines, an FBI agent who had heard about him through a retired base commander and who continuously tried to convince Douglas to become an agent himself. After Haines’s persistence, he decided to “take a crack at it” and managed to pass the FBI’s standard test for non-lawyers.
Once within the FBI, he joined the Behavioural Science Unit, later to be called the Investigative Support Unit, where he applied all that he had learned as a bouncer to profiling criminals. Before this could be done, however, he and his associates visited prisons, talking to convincted killers about their crimes and what motivated them to do certain things within.
Mind Hunter… illuminated several scientific concepts that are used within law enforcement agencies to incriminate suspects.
Not all physical evidence found is necessarily linked to the crime or can be used. A good example of this was Francine Elveson’s murder case, where a negroid hair sample had been found on her body upon autopsy. However, this turned out not to be evidence – the body bag used to ship Elveson had previously housed a black male victim and had not been cleaned out properly. I suppose if one wanted to take this idea outside of criminalistics, one could use this concept as a sort of “Look before you leap” thing.
I found this book quite riveting. It probably wasn’t the best book for someone as paranoid as I am to be reading in the middle of the night in an empty house while babysitting, but it distracted me and served its purpose. Not only did it give me insight into the minds of criminals and killers but also into the minds of ordinary civilians.
It also analysed exactly how the killers were caught, and, in some cases, it was frightening to realise that had either the police or the criminals had done one thing just slightly different, justice might not have been served. Some of these people would still be killing. Therefore, I feel that the knowledge in this book is invaluable to future generations of law enforcement, perhaps as even more a preventative measure than it already is.