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Criminal Investigation Assessment Unit.

While a young woman slept, two intruders forced their way into the basement of her home in a small Pennsylvania community. They cut off the telephone and electricity. Then, for the next several hours, the subjects sexually assaulted the victim. They finally gagged and bound her in a chair and fled the scene with her vehicle and a small amount of cash. When interviewed by police, the victim was unable to furnish descriptions of her assailants, other than to say that one was taller than the other.

Considering the limited descriptions, the likelihood of apprehending the offenders seemed remote. However, the Pennsylvania State Police had recently established a new unit designed to help solve such cases. Investigators from the Criminal Investigation Assessment (CIA) Unit assisted in the investigation and carefully reviewed the incident and the crime scene. They also reinterviewed the victim with an emphasis on developing behavioral assessments of the offenders.

As a result of their analysis, CIA Unit personnel concluded that one or both of the subjects must have been in the victim's home at some point in the past. Investigators then asked the victim to provide a list of every person known to have entered her home within the past 3 years.

Meanwhile, investigators received a tip that placed an individual in a vehicle similar to the victim's shortly after the assault occurred. An investigation revealed that the driver had a friend whose last name matched the last name of an individual on the victim's list. The name was that of a handyman who had worked at the victim's residence. The investigation focused on the man seen in the vehicle and the handyman's son. Investigators determined that at some point in the past, the handyman must have taken his son with him to work at the victim's house.

The two subjects were arrested. When confronted with the physical and circumstantial evidence that investigators had collected, both offenders pled guilty and were sentenced to lengthy prison terms.

The investigative initiatives employed by the Criminal Investigation Assessment Unit contributed significantly to the apprehension and conviction of these offenders. CIA Unit methods did not supplant the efforts of the assigned case investigators. Rather. they furthered the investigation by providing an assessment of offender behavior during the crime, thus allowing case investigators to limit and focus their search for the assailants.


Background and Composition

In 1987, the first State criminal investigation assessment program in the United States was developed through the mutual efforts of the Pennsylvania State Police and the FBI. Via a special FBI fellowship grant, a Pennsylvania State trooper was assigned temporarily to the FBI Academy where he received training in criminal profiling and other innovative investigative assessment techniques.

On his return to the Pennsylvania State Police, the trooper became the supervisor of the CIA Unit, which at that time consisted of 25 officers. Located within the Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the unit provided specialized service to the 15 county troops of the State police.

In 1992, the unit's primary objective changed from investigative support of troop operations to active involvement in all facets of the investigative process. This included participation in the major crime task forces that had been established in each county troop. CIA Unit officers and troop criminal investigators began working together, thereby expanding the level of knowledge and expertise available to solve each crime.

To accomplish its expanded mission, the CIA Unit significantly augmented its staff. Currently, the unit is comprised of a supervisor, 3 regional coordinators, and 41 criminal investigative assessment officers located throughout the State. The supervisor directs statewide criminal assessment activities and assists in developing and implementing investigative strategies. The regional coordinators oversee and report on unit activities and also help to develop and implement case strategies.

Criminal investigative assessment officers must be proficient in several different areas. They plan case strategies and assist with major case analysis, behavior-based interviewing techniques, and search warrant preparation.

Officer Selection

To qualify for assignment in the CIA Unit, troopers must have served a minimum of 3 years with the State police. The selection process includes a formal interview and a written test. In addition, a certified psychologist evaluates each candidate's psychological and emotional stability, maturity level, and ability to cope with the stress of dealing with violent crimes. The candidates' levels of formal education, investigative experience, and ability to write and speak clearly also factor into the selection process.

Investigative Services and Techniques

The CIA Unit provides free assessment services to Federal, State, and local law enforcement agencies. The techniques used by the CIA Unit can be applied to single, multiple, or serial offenses. However, because fewer indicators of mood and behavioral traits can be determined from single-event crimes, the effectiveness of the assessment in these types of cases generally is reduced. Additionally, in order to conduct a useful assessment, a significant psychopathology--a behavioral or personality imprint--must be evident in the verbal statements or behavior exhibited by the offender during the crime.

Various types of investigations may benefit from offender assessment. These include homicides, stranger-to-stranger rape investigations, extortion, threats, kidnapings, child molestations, suspicious deaths, serial arsons, ritualistic crimes, and false allegations.


CIA Unit administrators stress that the services provided by the unit should not be considered a substitute for a thorough, well-planned investigation; rather, their services augment traditional investigative crime-solving methods. CIA Unit officers provide a profile that describes the behavioral characteristics of the unknown offender. These profiles characterize offenders in a manner that distinguishes them from other members of the population. In this way, case investigators gain valuable information that may allow them to narrow the scope of their investigation.

In addition to offender assessment, CIA Unit investigation offers another important advantage. Case investigators benefit from an independent review, both of the crime scene and of the initial investigatory steps, unbridled from the stress and fatigue often associated with the original police response.

CIA Unit members also may conduct an additional personality assessment of offenders. However, this process requires a detailed submission of data regarding the subject and demands extensive review and consultation by the assessor. During this process, CIA Unit officers identify personality characteristics of offenders based on a detailed analysis of the crime(s) they have committed. Only those cases that yield considerable evidence delineating an offender's behavioral activity are accepted for personality assessment.


Investigators often find themselves confronted by cases that offer few physical clues. And as with the case of the young Pennsylvania woman, even assault victims who are left alive may be unable to provide the police with detailed information regarding their attackers.

However, just as advances in forensic science have made once-insignificant physical evidence valuable, advances in behavioral science have made offender assessment a useful component of many investigations. The Criminal Investigation Assessment Unit of the Pennsylvania State Police enhances traditional investigations by providing unique insights into the minds of offenders. For, as any investigator knows, a clue that distinguishes an offender from the general population brings law enforcement one step closer to solving the case.

Components of a Criminal Investigation Assessment

* Comprehensive study of the nature of the criminal act and the type of subject who commits similar offenses

* Thorough review of available crime scene data

* Indepth examination of the victim's background and activities

* Formulation of the suspect's probable motivating factors

* Behavioral and general physical description of the suspect.

Agencies that desire additional information regarding the CIA Unit may contact the Pennsylvania State Police, Bureau of Criminal Investigation, 1800 Elmerton Avenue, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17110.

Colonel Walp is the commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police. Corporal Murphy supervises the Criminal Investigation Assessment Unit of the Pennsylvania State Police in Harrisburg.
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Title Annotation:Pennsylvania State Police
Author:Murphy, Malcolm L.
Publication:The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin
Date:Dec 1, 1994
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