Behavioral Science Unit
The FBI

The Behavioral Science Unit

Q: What is the history of the Behavioral Science Unit?

1974: The Behavioral Science Unit (BSU) is created to investigate serial rape and homicide cases. There were originally eleven agents and it was a part of the Training Division.

1984: The Behavioral Science Unit split into the Behavioral Science Unit and the Behavioral Science Investigative Support Unit. The Behavioral Science Unit became primarily responsible for the training of the FBI National Academy students in the varsity of specialized topics concerning the behaviour and social sciences, and the Behavioral Science Investigative Support Unit became primarily responsible for the investigation of criminals.

1994: The Critical Incident Response Group integrated the FBI's crisis management, behavioral, and tactical resources within one entity. The name changed again to the Investigative Support Unit.

1997: The program then evolved into the Behavioral Analysis Unit.

Q: What is the Behavioral Science Unit?

Behavioral science is all about better understanding criminals and terrorists - who they are, how they think, why they do what they do - as a means to help solve crimes and prevent attacks.

The art of what is sometimes called "profiling" - popularized in movies like Silence of the Lambs - was developed by FBI behavioral analysts and has been around for years. The Bureau began to more systematically apply the insights of psychological science to criminal behaviour in the early 1970's.

Today, we have a team of professionals at the FBI Academy who teach the tenets of behavioral science around the world. Part of the Behavioral Science Unit (BSU), they provide cutting edge training, high-impact research, and consultation in the behavioral sciences in support of the FBI's mission and the work of the broader law enforcement and intelligence communities. They also work closely with out National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime and the Personnel Recovery Coordination Group of our Critical Response Group.

Q: Who makes up the unit?

Supervisory special agents and veteran police officers with advanced degrees in the behavioral science disciplines of psychology, criminology, sociology, and conflict resolution. The unit also includes a criminologist, clinical psychologist, research/crime analysts, and management analysts.

Q: What do they teach?

Topics include applied behavioral science for law enforcement operations; applied criminology; bio-phycho social aspects of criminal behaviour; conflict and crisis management/communication; futuristics in law enforcement; juvenile crime and behaviour; management of death investigations; psycho-social behaviour and mindset of gangs; spirituality, wellness and vitality issues in law enforcement; stress management in law enforcement; and mindset and methodology of terrorism. The unit also instructs new agents in psychopathology; problem-solving and crisis intervention; memory and perception; gangs; and group dynamics.

Q: Who do they teach?

National Academy students, new agents, onboard FBI personnel, domestic and international law enforcement officers, U.S. military and intelligence officers, and other governmental and academic personnel as deemed appropriate.

Q: What kinds of research does the BSU work on?

The unit focuses on developing new and innovative investigative approaches and techniques to solve crimes by studying offenders and their behaviours and motivations, collectively known as Perpetrator-Motive Research Design. Some of this research is conducted in partnership with outside researchers and through interagency agreements with the Department of Justice and its Office of Justice Programs. Some current research initiatives include: global hostage taking research and analysts project; homicide clearance; reliability and validity of official crime statistics; gangs and gang violence; emerging technologies and policing; future of law enforcement, guidelines for interviewing juveniles; countering terrorism; juvenile crime; and spirituality and the law.