Profiler Pete Klismet ~ Part Two ~ Writing Authentic Characters

Pete Klismet served two tours in Vietnam on submarines, attended college in Denver, then was a police officer in Ventura, California for ten years. He was appointed a Special Agent in 1979 and retired from the FBI in 1999 after 30 total years of law enforcement service. He was one of the original ‘profilers’ in the FBI, serving in four FBI offices. He was named the 1999 Law Enforcement Officer of the Year by a national organization.Having recently retired as a college professor, Pete and his wife Nancy live in Colorado Springs, CO.

Is there a criminal profiling question that is asked entirely too often?

One of the most frequent questions I’ve fielded over the years, both from the media and the general public, has been, “But aren’t all FBI agents trained to be ‘profilers?’”
Not only is the answer to that question “No,”  but nothing could be farther from the truth.  However, I understand why I’ve gotten the question, because there is such a mystique and mystery about the FBI that people see a show like “Criminal Minds” on TV and assume they’re seeing a true representation of what all profilers do.  And again, nothing could be farther from the truth.  I never had access to a Lear Jet, or an analyst who could hack into a video camera in New York City, cross-match that with the DNA of a Border Collie in Montana, triangulate those bits of information with a Saguaro cactus in Arizona, and come up with a suspect.  I also never worked with a guy who never smiled and had no personality.

At any given time in the FBI, there are around 100 agents whose full-time job is being a criminal profiler, or acting as a profiling coordinator for one of 56 FBI field offices.  The latter group are not full-time profilers, as they have their normal investigative duties.  These may include working terrorism, bank robberies, fugitives, kidnappings, or any one of many other criminal violations the FBI is tasked to investigate.  And that was exactly what I did, except for one summer when I spent about two months working with what was then called the Behavioral Science Unit (BSU) in Quantico, Virginia.

Those of us who were selected to be field profilers, and were the coordinators for our divisions, went through what I still call “Profiling Boot Camp.”  I recently did an interview on a radio show in Denver, and the host of the show asked me, “So, Pete, what was that training like?”  I had a very quick answer, “Dreadful.  Probably the worst thing I had ever gone through in my life.”  And, I had been a cop for ten years before going in the FBI, had seen plenty of gruesome scenes, so it wasn’t like I fell off the turnip truck one afternoon while driving through town.

Assuming that’s true, why is it the case?  Because all of our instructors reviewed case after case of the most horrifying crimes in the United States.  The presentations were replete with one gory slide after another, and we went through them in infinite detail.  After many days of this training, we were given a set of facts, some pictures and other relevant information, and asked to come up with our own profile of the case.  And then we did more, some of which was our homework.  It was grueling, eye-opening and, as I said ‘dreadful.’ Of the fifty agents originally selected, we had at least ten drop out after a couple of days, or during the first week.

All of the agents who are selected as profilers go through the same or similar training.  Then, we were required to come back to the FBI Academy twice a year to review more cases.  While it was dreadful, it was a great learning experience.  When we’d get requests for a profile from an agency in our field office’s territory, we’d be much better equipped to provide information the full-time profilers needed in Quantico, or on occasion to do an assessment ourselves.  But, before it was official, it had to be approved by the BSU in Quantico.

In contrast with this, agents who go through the FBI Academy for New Agent’s training are given a four-hour introductory session, so they are at least aware of what profiling is, what it may do to help in an investigation, and what types of crimes profiling may help them with.  Some of the trainees become very interested and want to become profilers themselves.  Here again, there is a process.  They will need to have been an agent for at least five years, have a good investigative record, and preferably have worked violent crimes.  In today’s modern world, however, there is more of an emphasis on terrorism, thus profiling trainees are acquainted with that subject area as well.  Whatever the agent’s interest, if he or she qualifies, becoming a criminal profiler is an extraordinary experience.  But, not everyone is cut out for it.