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How to become a behavioural investigative advisor

On Tuesday February 23rd, we will be hosting the online event ‘Providing advice to crime investigations from a behavioural science perspective - from offender profiling to behavioural investigative advice’. This event will be hosted by Senior Behavioural Investigative Advisor Pippa Gregory and provide you with an insight into her role and how to follow in her footsteps. We caught up with Programme & Student Lead for Policing Programmes Jennifer Schmidt-Petersen to learn more about the event and the unique role.

Our behavioural investigative advisor talk will take place online starting at 6 pm. It is open to prospective students, current students and staff, alumni and wider practitioners in the field of criminal justice

The talk will be led by Pippa Gregory, a senior behavioural investigative advisor (BIA) who will look at the role of BIAs providing advice to crime investigations from a behavioural science perspective. This is sometimes misleadingly referred to as profiling. It will examine the role of BIA’s, answer questions and clear up common misconceptions about what the role consists of.

The term profiling is problematic because it means different things to different people. Furthermore, the way that it is portrayed in the media is often misleading.

Offender profiling dates back to the 19th century case of Jack the Ripper but its modern origins are in the work of the Behavioral Science Unit of the FBI in the 1970s. More recent approaches have been research-based and statistical; the terminology has moved from profilers to BIA’s (behavioural investigative advisors).

In the UK, the term profiler is not formally used within law enforcement. Instead, we talk about crime scene analysis and behavioural investigative advice. You don’t really have profilers, you have BIA’s.

Behavioural investigative advisers (BIA’s) provide investigative support and advice linking the theoretical basis of behavioural science to the investigation of serious crime. Their advice may take many forms and can include: crime scene assessment, motivational factors, cold case reviews, series identification/case linkage, investigative suggestions/strategies and much more.

Support is provided at the request of the senior investigating officer (SIO).

Unlike our guest speaker, I am not a BIA but I have a Master’s degree in Investigative Psychology. This is the internationally renowned science that developed out of early ‘offender profiling’.

During my studies with the International Research Centre for Investigative Psychology (IRCIP), I contributed to a range of consultancy reports. These contributions included geospatial analysis (coordinates, addresses, postcodes etc.) of crime series data for burglary, robbery and rape.

I also designed and teach the Forensic and Criminal Psychology optional module that is part of our BSc (Hons) in Professional Policing at the London Bloomsbury Campus. Within this, we examine topics such as profiling and behavioural investigative advice.

Becoming a BIA is not easy as there are very few positions. If you have an interest in the area, stay open-minded to related jobs or disciplines such as crime analysis, investigative or forensic psychology or policing.

When it comes to famous BIAs, the fictional characters of Sherlock Holmes or Robbie Coltrane’s Cracker come to mind. However, as previously pointed out, media portrayals of this type of work are very much fiction.

In real life, the two most well-known people in the UK who have been involved in this type of work are Paul Britton and David Canter. Investigative psychology is the science that emerged out of David Canter’s early attempts at profiling and he is the person who pioneered this approach.

There are many myths about BIAs. For one, they are not psychic or have supernatural abilities when it comes to reading people’s minds. Instead, their work is based on careful analysis of available case materials and empirical behavioural and psychological literature.

In shows like CSI or Cracker, we see the case solved at the end of every episode. Real life does not work like that and it is important to remember that BIA’s are not used for routine easy cases but cases that may otherwise never be solved.


Don’t miss out on this fantastic event. Sign up now.