The hit series Criminal Minds followed the story of the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit. Profilers and a technical analyst solved hundreds of crimes around the country, ranging from murder to kidnapping. Through 15 seasons, this show captivated audiences because of the team’s ability to solve crimes using behavior analysis. But, does the FBI have a behavioral analysis unit in real life?
What Is Behavior Analysis?
Behavior analysis is a natural science where scientists strive to understand an individual’s behavior. Analysts look at biological, pharmacological, and experiential factors that influence someone’s behavior. This field has three branches: conceptual behavior analysis, experimental behavior analysis, and applied behavior analysis.
Does the Behavioral Analysis Unit Exist?
Like most television series, aspects of the show are not always accurate. In real life, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has a Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) comprised of five units. Each department focuses on certain crimes.
- Behavioral Analysis Unit 1: counterterrorism, arson, and bombing matters
- Behavioral Analysis Unit 2: threats, cybercrime, and public corruption
- Behavioral Analysis Unit 3: crimes against children
- Behavioral Analysis Unit 4: crimes against adults, Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (ViCAP)
- Behavioral Analysis Unit 5: research, strategy, and instruction
The FBI created the BAU in 1985 as a part of the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime.
BAU Job Requirements
The hiring process to be a BAU member happens within the Bureau. Current FBI agents are eligible to submit applications, but it is a very competitive process. These FBI agents are not profilers but are usually criminal psychologists. Their backgrounds include a bachelor’s degree in any field of study (commonly criminal justice or psychology), at least three years of field experience, and a 20-week training program at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia.
BAU employees analyze crime scenes, interview victims and witnesses, create a criminal profile, and more. For the teams to assist in a criminal case, a local, state, federal, or international law enforcement agency must request them.
This blog was inspired by a question at Pub Quiz and Stump! Trivia by Sporcle games across the country on May 25, 2022. That question was: What long-running procedural crime drama that originally aired from 2005-2020 follows a group of profilers from the Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) of the FBI?
As you now know, the answer was Criminal Minds.
Quiz Yourself: Can you name these Criminal Minds characters?