WAGs and SWAGs

I have noted a great deal of confusion and debate about the concepts of deductive and inductive profiling from those within the field and from those without. Hostility has even arisen as to which is the most credible system and which system should be used in serial homicide investigations. Being a rather practical person, I prefer to cut to the chase and make this somewhat simple in plain English. We are dealing with WAGS and SWAGS: Wild Ass Guesses and Scientific Wild Ass Guesses.

Deductive Profiling, a rather fanciful title for "This is what I think", is nothing but the investigative reasoning method used by all detectives since the beginning of time including the famous Sherlock himself. Holmes, of course, came to his conclusions through a more elaborate and brilliant deduction process than most of us who simply might say, "Hey, a dog hair. I think the guy's got a dog," but the process remains the same. There is nothing scientific about it. It is simply logic based on what each of us individually perceives to be reality.

Take an example from a case I profiled. The body of a woman was found nude behind a bar except for a shoe on one foot and a pair of leggings dangling off of it. The investigators on the case deduced that the woman had been transported to an unknown location, assaulted and killed at that place and then brought back and dumped in the parking lot. I looked at the photos and came to a different conclusion.

Along with other evidence (which I will not go into here) I came to the conclusion the woman had been killed in a van and was dumped directly from that vehicle. One of the reasons for that conclusion was based on the clothing hanging from her foot. It was my recollection from my teen years, that this configuration of dangling clothing off of one foot indicated sexual activity in a vehicle. The clothing was removed only to the point of being able to achieve sexual intercourse and there was not much concern for the aesthetics of the act. If the woman had been taken to another location to conduct this activity, most likely the clothing would have been fully removed and it would also be unlikely the woman would have been placed back in a vehicle with a piece of clothing hanging off of her.

I concluded the woman had been sexually assaulted in the vehicle, dumped in the lot in the condition she was in at the end of the assault (clothing still attached to the one foot) and the killer drove off with the remaining clothing. Now, I have not a shred of scientific documentation to prove this. It is a conclusion based on my own memories of teenage life some twenty years ago (okay, perhaps twenty-five). Perhaps if I had been a more upstanding citizen in those days, I would not have this information. But I do and it is on this (along with other evidence) I base my conclusion.

This is how 'deductive profiling' is conducted. It is brainstorming on the possibilities that we are able to deduce from what we see and what we have stored in our own minds. What makes an investigator good is his logical ability coupled with experience. He is able to put two and two together. Some would have us believe the intensive study of forensics makes 'deductive profiling' more of a science. One cannot make guessing more of a science. It is still guessing. One can only make the details which we use to make our guesses more scientific and therefore increase our chances of guessing correctly. Obviously having good forensic information is to one's advantage.

So what about inductive profiling? Scientific Wild Ass Guesses? Isn't this a contradiction? Not in actuality, no. Inductive profiling is a scientific method of empirically driven research which studies hypotheses and draws conclusions about patterns in human behavior. This information gives us probabilities upon which to base our guesses concerning any specific homicide. Its usefulness lies in analyzing the behaviors of a distinct type of human behavior of which most of us are ignorant, not having participated in that behavior ourselves, and considering the rarity of serial homicide, investigators have very few experiences to base their conclusions on. Often times this lack of understanding leads to many erroneous conclusions as to motives and the kind of person who would do 'such a thing'. The wild ass guesses become completely ludicrous. Even with good forensic information (that some have renamed as 'Behavioral Evidence Analysis') many inexperienced investigators may still be way off the mark. Inductive profiling is one scientific method that will improve the understanding of the behaviors of serial killers in a manner which will improve some of the misguided instinctive conclusions by well-meaning investigators. Then they will be able to make better Scientific Wild Ass Guesses about any particular set of serial homicides and that would be a vast improvement.

However, WAGS and SWAGS serve only one part of the ability to solve sexual homicides. Old fashioned dogged police work, a refusal to give up on the puzzle, a willingness to test alternative theories and share information, openness to outside and specialized assistance and a commitment to justice and public safety remain the strongest tools an investigator has in his arsenal to increase his chances of bringing cases to closure.

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