Police procedural thriller TV series Criminal Minds differs from many procedural dramas by focusing on criminal profiling. The show revolves around an elite team of profilers from the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) at Quantico, Virginia. Profilers analyze the country’s most twisted criminal minds in an effort to anticipate their next moves before they strike again. But how accurate is Criminal Minds regarding the behavioral analysis of criminals?
The answer is not accurate at all. Criminal Minds is an extreme opposite of what the BAU really is and what they do. First of all, there is no position within the FBI known as a “profiler.” Most of these people are simply known as criminal psychologists. Second, there are very few cases that make their way to the Behavioral Analysis Unit, and if it does, criminal psychologists spend weeks or months studying and examining the case material. Actually, criminal psychology is 90% desk work, 10% field work, and criminal psychologists do not usually leave the FBI headquarters unless it is absolutely necessary.
They are not the ones who confront serial killers and end up in the line of fire. They are out of life-threatening situations of any kind.
If what you see on Criminal Minds is what you really want to do, become a detective or a police officer.
Despite the numerous claims that the term “UNSUB” was created uniquely for this show and is not used in real life, it is not true.
Actually, “UNSUB”, which stands for unknown subject, is a real term, used in several books by John Douglas and Roy Hazelwood, well-known retired FBI agents, who were involved in the practice of criminal profiling since joining the FBI in the 1970s.
The term was also used by true crime writers, such as Mark Olshaker and Stephen Michaud.
Criminal Minds may be an entertaining TV show, but it is not a realistic portrayal of serial killers nor of the people who do their job to stop them.