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Senior Capstone

Criminal Psychologists Involvement in Law Enforcement

Criminal Psychologist

Kate Wilson

Senior Capstone

Mr. P. Foote

April 21, 2017

Kate Wilson
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Mr. Foote


March, 2017

Capstone Essay

The idea of psychopaths and their tendencies have fascinated humans for centuries.

Though most members of society do not want to bring harm anyone, there are a small minority

that does, in fact, have a strong desire to commit inhumane acts on others. From Jeffrey Dahmer,

who violently murdered and mutilated seventeen men and boys, took pictures of the corpses and

performed sexual acts on the victims' corpses, and kept their body parts as mementos to the

infamous Ted Bundy, who was a rapist serial killer in the 1970s, was accused of at least 36

murders and rape of young women, though it is thought he could have committed one hundred or

more, all of these horrendous cases had a need for understanding why they happened. This is

where psychologists must come into the picture, specifically psychologists who specialize in

violent crimes. Criminal psychologists need to have an advanced understanding of both

general and forensic psychology as well as being a skilled professional counselor to be

successful in their career.

Having a well developed understanding of general psychology is an important aspect of

being a criminal psychologist as it is the base of their work to be any kind of psychologist.

Whether it be criminal, developmental, or social, one must first have a basic grasp of general

psychology. Professor Gabriel Griffin from Grand Rapids Community College, who teaches and

practices psychology, also added that important characteristics would be excellent

communication skills (both verbal and written), strong science background, good self-initiative
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and self-direction, and a general interest in people. Experience in teaching and group

communication are valued by colleges and universities for professor positions, but most

universities are also looking for strong research and publication histories. Therefore, for anyone

wanting to get into academics in the field of psychology, I would strongly recommend getting

involved with research and potentially even being involved with publishing research while still

in graduate school (or even in undergraduate) (Griffin). These psychologists study and become

involved in many studies and classes in order to be at the advanced place they are in

investigations. They use their knowledge of general psychology to study the specific human

behavior of criminals, and criminal psychologists will also work closely with attorneys, the

courts and law enforcement agencies, and various other stakeholders involved in civil and

criminal cases (Criminal Psychologist Career). They also use their general psychology by

conducting evaluations of the accused and alleged victims to pick their brain and see if they are

guilty or not, and why they might have done the crime and other information. Psychologists have

used their expertise to probe the minds of extreme criminals, retrieve important information

about motives, study pre-and post-crime behavior, fatal fantasies, mental rehearsal,

compartmentalized personalities, and the role of mental disorders (Ramsland). For example, a

criminal psychologist might evaluate a defendant to determine his or her competency to stand

trial, to see if they are mentally ill since a psychologist is able to determine this. They might also

interview the victim of a crime in order to establish a timeline of events and the cause and effect

of said events (Criminal Psychologist Career). These two forms of psychology come together in

many examples, one being that a psychologist in either field might have to study the relations

between age and crime. It is well known that there is a correlation between criminal tendencies

and age; one theory states that crime results from the interaction of low self-control and
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opportunity. With opportunity, those with low self-control commit a crime without considering

consequences because it gratifies their immediate needs (Tittle). It is important for these

criminal psychologists to have a high intelligence level in relation to general psychology in order

to execute their job since they work directly with the psyche of people and need to be able to

understand their behavior.

Criminal psychologists also play an important part when dealing with the forensic part of

a crime. Though there are forensic psychologists which differ from criminal psychologists, there

are similarities. Both criminal and forensic psychologists assist law enforcement in

investigating crimes. However, they play different but complementary roles. Criminal

psychologists focus on determining a motive and creating a profile of the perpetrator, forensic

psychologists study the aftermath of a crime (Williams). An example of when both criminal

psychology and forensic psychology were used was in the case study of Timothy Masters,

Timothy Masters was a fifteen year old boy who was convicted for the murder of 37-year-old

Peggy Hettrick. Masters, who claimed his innocence, was convicted largely on the testimony of

forensic psychologist, Dr. Reid Meloy. His violent sketches and stories he made as a teen were

used to convict him in 1999 of killing Peggy Hettrick in 1987 (Perri). This is a prime example

of when both criminal and forensic worked together to benefit law enforcement and help solve a

case provide evidence for a conviction.

Along with forensic and criminal psychology, criminal psychologists also need to have

sufficient comprehension on general counseling. Counselors and psychologists share a few

similarities regarding being able to understand the human mind and behavior. The

psychoanalytic tradition provides a complex analysis of human behavior because it describes a

situation in which human beings are motivated by unconscious desires, are largely unaware of
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these unconscious motivations, and are resistant to being made aware of them (Redekop). Since

criminal psychologists work directly with victims and victims families, they must be able to

acquire information while still being respectful. They also use their counseling techniques when

working with criminals who are mentally ill or psychopaths to act sympathetic towards them to

extract information.

Criminal psychologists use a variety of fields to solve cases, make convictions, and delve

into the brains of psychopaths. Criminal psychologists, although from a fairly new field, have

been able to help law enforcement solve many cases that might have not been solved without

their assistance. They are able to bring their expertise of forensic psychology, general

psychology, and professional counseling to the table in order to solve these crimes. They are able

to use a perfect blend of criminology and psychology to their advantage to put themselves in the

case and into the mind of the criminal.

Works Cited

Griffin, Gabriel. 2017. Accessed 13 Apr. 2017.

Perri, Frank S., and Terrence G. Lichtenwald. "When worlds collide: criminal investigative
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analysis, forensic psychology, and the Timothy Masters case." The Forensic Examiner,

Summer 2009, p. 52+. Academic OneFile,


%7CA201548833&it=r&asid=d0a85a5189944b2f2d1a7ae84e877120. Accessed 13 Apr.


Ramsland, Katherine. "Close encounters with criminal minds." The Forensic Examiner, Winter

2013, p. 16+. Academic OneFile,


%7CA355775773&it=r&asid=625f638663e9eeb331fcb3c9ecfaaff4. Accessed 13 Apr.


Redekop, Frederick, et al. "From the couch to the chair: applying psychoanalytic theory and

practice in counseling." Journal of Counseling and Development, vol. 95, no. 1, 2017, p.

100+. Academic OneFile,


%7CA478405789&it=r&asid=c5a5ed83de8b51c5d4a004c916cf9765. Accessed 13 Apr.


Tittle, Charles R., and Harold G. Grasmick. "Criminal behavior and age: a test of three
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provocative hypothesis." Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Fall 1997, pp. 309-

342. Academic Onefile,


%7CA20840469&it=r&asid=5dcae0d71f11624a7d04185fa704b848. Accessed 13 Apr.