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Profiling and the Law Stories: Bruce Schneier had a post on behavioral profiling in his August 21st blog posting. Anecdotal and scientific information on profiling is useful for lawyers defending clients who have been profiled, for lawyers confronting / challenging eye-witness testimony, and for lawyers who work with law enforcement and security agencies trying to come up with ways to keep us all safe.

Everyone has a story about being profiled or even just “getting the sense” that someone is up to no good. We’ve all heard police officers being ridiculed for saying that they “knew by looking at the guy that he was up to no good.” But it happens to us all. The recent local story reported on KATU’s web site about the young woman who was stopped by a man who claimed to be an “undercover cop” is an example. Her instincts told her there was something wrong (that and his tee-shirt that had “Undercover Police” written on it was a dead give-away – ya think?). And she was right, but was just law-abiding enough not to pay attention to her own survival instincts.

My own notable story was back in the 80’s while working in a Philadelphia jail as a bail interviewer. The defendant’s fingerprints came back clean so it looked as if he had no record. But as I talked to him I had a funny sense that he had been there before. So I sent out his fingerprints to be rechecked. Bingo. They had read them incorrectly. The defendant was no first-timer. If he had been interviewed by someone newer than I or less willing to challenge the fingerprint readers (who were in truth quite nice and more than willing to recheck their work), less “intuitive,” or just not as confident in her intuitions and intangible observations (paying no attention to the young, clean-cut, glad-handing type guy he appeared on the surface) then this defendant would have been free as the wind, ROR (released on own recognizance).

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