During this past couple of weeks, a buzz word going around the country is the term "profiling." Since profiling affects our safety and security, I wanted to take this opportunity to explain that there are actually two types of profiling: racial profiling and behavioral/psychological profiling.
Of course, talk of racial profiling raises bad feelings in everyone, and does no good in supporting a positive narrative. Many times this is an assumption on the listeners part, unaware that there are two types of profiling. And an error on the presenters part, in that they were unclear as to the type of profiling they're referring to.
Let me make one thing clear; racial profiling is illegal in the United States. There is no room in any scenario for our law enforcement, or anyone for that matter, to try and profile people based upon their race. Anyone care to tell me what the next terrorist in America is going to look like? Exactly my point, you can't.
Now, let's learn a little about the "other" profiling, behavioral/psychological. While behavioral profiling is something that can be relatively easy to teach to public safety personnel, psychological profiling requires extensive education and training. Because of this, the professional use of psychological profiling is generally left to specialists.
So what is behavioral profiling? For a good definition, I turned to Security Intelligence magazine;
The term "behavioral profiling" is most commonly associated (by the public) with airport security and "CSI" episodes. This interpretation fits quite well with the Wikipedia definition: "Offender profiling, also known as criminal profiling, is a behavioral and investigative tool that is intended to help investigators to accurately predict and profile the characteristics of unknown criminal subjects or offenders."
Behavioral profiling is based upon the fact that we, as humans, all have a basic, similar response to certain stimulus. For example, if you are standing in line at the airport, and you hear a loud noise, there is a certain way most people will respond (a tactic, used for years by certain foreign airlines). When a public safety professional observes the individuals reactions, they are then able to narrow their investigation of suspicious persons in the area.
So in other words, present a person with a situation in which a majority of people are known to respond a certain way. If a person(s) does not respond as predicted, then it warrants further investigation. So while behavioral profiling is not an end game to identify those with criminal intent, it is a proven method to assist public safety personnel in narrowing down potential suspects.
This can be applied to any individual or group of people. By observing their actions (there is an entire training course based upon interpreting these actions), a public safety professional can begin to access potential threats.
Responsible use of this word, would require the user to define the difference between which type of "profiling" they are referring to. For your safety, and mine.