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WORK IS FAR FROM GLAMOROUS OR PSYCHIC FOR `REAL' FBI PROFILER.

Byline: Tanya Barrientos Knight-Ridder Tribune News Wire

He knew what was coming. There would be two of them, talkative types, with lots of nosy questions. One would be good with words. The other, strictly visual.

Of that much, FBI profiler James McNamara was certain.

He knew they were headed toward his FBI Academy office at that very moment.

Sixty feet down on the freight elevator, past the heavy metal door and into the Profiling and Behavioral Assessment Unit.

They were getting closer.

A 10-year FBI veteran and former U.S. Marine, McNamara sat and waited for them. Calmly.

If this were a scene from NBC's ``Profiler'' or Fox's ``Millennium,'' eerie music would swell now. A montage of ominous, blurry images would flash, suggesting cosmic psychic phenomena.

But McNamara is a ``real'' FBI profiler, so there is none of that.

His clues don't come from the netherworld, just an open datebook on his desk with an appointment duly noted: ``Interview and photo, 8:30 a.m.''

``All that psychic stuff is strictly Hollywood,'' McNamara says, leaning back in his government-issue chair inside his government-issue office, tucked deep in what was, in another era, a bomb shelter.

McNamara looks nothing like Hollywood's idea of a profiler. No, the trim, tall conservative dresser would probably be cast as a young intern on ``ER,'' or maybe the sensitive history teacher in an after-school special, or the guy with a headache in an aspirin commercial.

But Hollywood has other ideas.

In ``Millennium,'' protagonist Frank Black (played by Lance Henriksen) has a face so intense it could cut glass.

In ``Profiler,'' the FBI agent is a leggy blond bombshell (Ally Walker) who could pass for an exotic dancer but just happens to be a brainy forensic psychologist.

``We don't wear $500 suits and have helicopters and jets at our disposal to go zipping to cases whenever we feel like it,'' McNamara says, chuckling.

In real life, FBI profilers must be invited to enter a case by local authorities. Unless the crime occurred on federal property or the victim was a government employee.

Profilers jump in when a case is baffling or particularly gruesome, or when local detectives need help narrowing down their suspects, McNamara says.

An obsession for details and loads of old-fashioned police work - that's what real profiling comes down to, according to McNamara. And, he adds, no profiler ever works alone. The profiling unit has 12 members, and they work as a group, swapping ideas, sharing insights and collaborating to draw their conclusions.

Basically, McNamara says, a profiler's job is to answer the one question that hangs over any terrible crime scene: ``What sort of person could do this?''

There is a large magnifying glass on his tidy desktop, right next to his computer. These are his tools for high-tech and low-tech investigative techniques and, McNamara observes, they are equally important.

``First you do victimology. You find out all you can about the victim. Check arrest records, mental health records. You talk to a lot of people,'' he says. ``If you find out about the victim, that'll tell you a lot about the offender.''

While McNamara and other profilers work cases that range from product tampering, arsons, bombings and extortion, Hollywood likes to focus almost exclusively on killers.

When real profilers are trying to find a killer, they pore over photos of crime scenes as if they were children searching for Waldo, scavenging for the smallest clues, for what they call the offender's ``signature.''

``Each offender's signature is different, like a fingerprint,'' he says.

Signatures are clues that go beyond acts needed to commit a crime, McNamara says, such as using a crowbar to get into a locked room.

``The signature is something the killer needs to do to fulfill his or herself,'' he says. ``For example, in lust murders the bodies might be cut up because the killer ``has'' to do that for fulfillment. ... That reflects him as a person.''

A skillful investigator learns to read a killer's patterns, and build a personality profile from them.

In the bestselling book ``Mind Hunter,'' retired FBI profiler John Douglas and novelist Mark Olshaker analyze how profilers interpret clues.

``Whenever we see an old victim of a sexual assault, we look for a young offender, someone unsure of himself, without much experience,'' the book states.

Other personality tipoffs include what the authors refer to as the ``homicidal triad:'' bed-wetting, cruelty to animals, and fire-starting.

McNamara is prohibited from discussing any ongoing cases, and is reluctant to get into specifics about his work.

But he will say that a serial killer's crime scene can instantly tell him whether the killer is ``organized or disorganized.''

The organized killer obsesses over details and is meticulous, which, McNamara says, usually means ``he is progressing,'' or ``fine-tuning what he's doing.''

Disorganization at a crime scene may show that ``the killer is degenerating and getting careless.''
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Nov 24, 1996
Words:814
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