Behavioral Science Unit

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 FBI National Academy students in the variety of specialized topics concerning the behavior 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 behavior in the early 1970s.

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 our 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 analyst.

Q:  What do they teach?

Topics include applied behavioral science for law enforcement operations; applied criminology; bio-psycho social aspects of criminal behavior; conflict and crisis management/communication; futuristics in law enforcement; juvenile crime and behavior; management of death investigations; psycho-social behavior 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, on-board 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 behaviors 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 analysis 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.


DeNevi, D. & Campbell, J. H. (2004). Into the minds of madmen: How the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit revolutionized crime investigation. New York: Prometheus Books.

Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2010). Behavioral science. Retrieved from

Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2010). Investigative programs: Critical incident response group. Retrieved from

Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2006). Profile of a partnership: A key role of behavioral analyst. Retrieved from

Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2008). The FBI: A centennial history, 1908-2008. Retrieved from

Holden, H. M. (2008). FBI 100 years: An unofficial history. Minneapolis: MBI Publishing Company.

Winerman, L. (2004). Criminal profiling: The reality behind the myth. Monitor, 35(7). Retrieved from

Presented by: Ashley DuVal

4 Responses to “Behavioral Science Unit”

  1. Jack says:

    Can the web master for this web site remove my prior comment made earlier this evening. I mistakenly assumed my note would be a private email. I have no intention to make public what I said, as I thought I was simply emailing the person in charge of this web site, although my concerns were legitimate, still, there is no point in keeping the comments up for all to see, not in good taste. Thank you.

  2. Jack says:

    I feel the urgent need to get this info out to you folks so that perhaps a potential disaster can be averted in the future. There is an emotionally disturbed man who lives in New England, in Connecticut, I believe, by the name of Francis Destefano, who is in his mid forties or thereabout. He is an unemployed man with delusional, psychotic issue and emotionally troubled in that he is unable to disguise his splintered personality. Please, please watch the videos he himself has uploaded onto You Tube to see what I mean. Just type in his name on You Tube: Francis Destefano and you will see many videos he has made of himself in public places such as at indoor shopping mall, outside abortion clinics, in parks and playgrounds, outside churches and a other places. Most of the time, the camera angles of Francis are extreme close-ups, usually showing his crew cut hair style as if he had undergone a frontal lobotomy or electro shock therapy. He is definitely on psychotropic meds but often fails to take them. He is obsessed with the Shroud of Turin and in some of his videos, he rants about it but in many other videos of his on You Tube, he rants and raves about his family members and friends who refuse to support him since he is always in need of money and is unemployable. My concerns are that Francis will flip out one day soon with the potential to really hurt many people. He is not sane. Please, watch his videos. He is a ticking time bomb which the FBI behavioral Sciences unit should observe very closely. I believe if they view Francis’ videos, they will get in touch with the Connecticut State Police ASAP and advise them that this man needs close monitoring. Francis’ own father is a doctor or retired doctor in New England somewhere. Could be in Mass., New Hampshire or CT. I think the father has the same name as Francis. This man, Francis, looks like he has already snapped, his mind appears to be very fragmented. He travels a lot on trains and buses and sometimes makes his bizarre videos for You Tube while on commuter trains like the Metro North train between NYC and New England. I suspect he is a definite candidate for treatment at a psychiatric facility, if he hasn’t already been one but it is obvious to me that even if he had been, he needs to check back in. I am concerned Francis will do something drastic beyond his own control. He appears able to plan acts that are impulsive, spontaneous and ill conceived without realizing their consequences, at the detriment of others. It seems clear his maturity has either somehow reverted to a time when he was a young man or he never matured beyond a certain point when most people do. People have told me they feel endangered in a very creepy way when Francis is in their presence. Certainly, once his You Tube videos are scrutinized by FBI profilers, they will realize that Francis is a classic case of a tragedy waiting to happen.

  3. David George says:

    I killed a bunch of people and I cant get the cops to give me the time of day or even listen to my story (most say killer keep good eye contact, my weakness… eh… guilt, go figure).
    Worse… I’m innocent.
    Want to read about how to kill people, tell the cops how, and get away with it? Go to my defunct website (eh, I violated their terms of service, go figure) at “yola”
    Use my e-mail address to log into my site builder… it’s “”
    Use my password, it’s… zugzug
    Then use the preview command to read the fine print. Yeah, I used insulting nicknames on some people, and yeah, some of the pages got smudged up. I’ll re-write them when I get the strength.
    Please tell someone… HELP! PLEASE HELP!

  4. Frances Verner says:

    Was there a particular case that led up to the BSU being formed? Where did it come from in the first place? Was there a particular person or set of persons pushing for it’s formation or was it just mutually agreed upon by people at the top that something like that was needed? Was there any particular even that made this training more than just “a porno show for cops” or did it happen gradually?
    Thanks so much!