5 - علم رفتاری یا BS؟

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5 - علم رفتاری یا BS؟

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Chapter 5

Behavioral Science or BS?

I hadn’t been back to Quantico since new-agent training almost five years before, and in many ways the place had changed. For one thing, by spring of 1975, the FBI Academy had become a complete and self-contained facility, carved out of a chunk of the U.S. Marine base in the beautiful, gently rolling Virginia woodlands about an hour south of Washington.

But some things hadn’t changed. The tactical units still commanded all the prestige and status, and of these, the Firearms Unit was the star. It was headed by George Zeiss, the special agent who had been sent to bring James Earl Ray back from England to face American justice after the 1968 assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Zeiss was a huge, powerful bear of a man who broke handcuffs with his bare hands as a parlor trick. One time, some of the guys on the range took a pair and soldered the chain, then gave them to Zeiss to do his thing. He twisted so hard, he snapped his wrist and had to be in a cast for weeks.

Hostage negotiation was taught by the Behavioral Science Unit, a group of between seven and nine special agent instructors. Psychology and the “soft sciences” were never held in much esteem by Hoover and his cohorts, so until he died, this was something of a “back room” endeavor.

In fact, much of the FBI at that time, as well as the law enforcement world in general, considered psychology and behavioral science as they applied to criminology to be so much worthless bullshit. While clearly I never felt this way, I had to acknowledge that a lot of what was known and taught in this field had no real relevance to the business of understanding and catching criminals, a circumstance several of us would try to begin to rectify a couple of years later. When I took over as chief of the operational side of the Behavioral Science Unit, I changed the name to the Investigative Support Unit. And when people asked me why, I told them, quite frankly, I wanted to take the BS out of what we were doing.

The BSU, under Unit Chief Jack Pfaff at the time I took my hostage-negotiation training, was dominated by two strong and insightful personalities—Howard Teten and Patrick Mullany. Teten is about six foot four with penetrating eyes behind wire-rim glasses. Though an ex-Marine, he’s a contemplative type—always totally dignified; the model of an intellectual professor. He joined the Bureau in 1962 after serving with the San Leandro, California, Police Department, near San Francisco. In 1969, he began teaching a landmark course called Applied Criminology, which eventually (after Hoover’s death, I suspect) became known as Applied Criminal Psychology. By 1972, Teten had gone up to New York to consult with Dr. James Brussel, the psychiatrist who had cracked the Mad Bomber case, who agreed to personally teach Teten his profiling technique.

Armed with this knowledge, the big breakthrough of Teten’s approach was how much you could learn about criminal behavior and motives by focusing on the evidence of the crime scene. In some ways, everything we’ve done in behavioral science and criminal investigative analysis since then has been based on this.

Pat Mullany always reminded me of a leprechaun. At about five ten, he’s a roly-poly type with a quick wit and high energy level. He came to Quantico in 1972 from the New York Field Office with a degree in psychology. Near the end of his tenure at Quantico, he would distinguish himself by successfully managing very public hostage situations: in Washington, D.C., when the Hanafi Muslim sect took over the B’nai B’rith headquarters, and in Warrensville Heights, Ohio, when Cory Moore, a black Vietnam vet, grabbed a police captain and his secretary right in the station house. Together, Teten and Mullany represented the first wave of modern behavioral science and made a distinct and unforgettable pair.

The other instructors in the BSU also participated in the hostage-negotiation course. These included Dick Ault and Robert Ressler, who’d arrived at Quantico a short time before. If Teten and Mullany constituted the first wave, Ault and Ressler constituted the second, moving the discipline further along as something that could be of real value to police departments throughout the United States and the world. Though at that time we only knew each other as teacher and student, Bob Ressler and I would soon join forces on the serial-killer study that led ultimately to the modern version of what we do.

About fifty guys were in the hostage-negotiation class. In some ways it was more entertaining than informative, but an enjoyable two-week respite from field work. In class, we examined the three basic types of hostage takers: professional criminal, mentally ill, and fanatic. We studied some of the significant phenomena that had arisen out of hostage situations, such as the Stockholm syndrome. Two years before, in 1973, a botched bank robbery in Stockholm, Sweden, had turned into an agonizing hostage drama for customers and bank employees. Ultimately, the hostages came to identify with their captors and actually assisted them against the police.

We also watched the Sidney Lumet film Dog Day Afternoon, which had recently come out, starring Al Pacino as a man who robs a bank to get money for his male lover to undergo a sex-change operation. The film is based on an actual hostage incident in New York City. It was this case, and the protracted negotiations that ensued, that led the FBI to invite Capt. Frank Bolz and Det. Harvey Schlossberg of the NYPD to bring the Academy up to speed on hostage negotiation, an area in which the New York people were the acknowledged national leaders.

We studied the principles of negotiation. Some of the guidelines, such as trying to keep loss of life to a minimum, were obvious stuff. We did have the benefit of audiotapes of actual hostage situations, but it would be years later, when the next generation of instructors came in, before students would be involved in role-playing exercises—the closest you can get in the classroom to hands-on negotiating. It was also somewhat confusing, because a lot of the material had been recycled from the criminal psychology classes and didn’t really fit. For example, they would give us photos and dossiers of child molesters or lust killers and discuss how such a personality would react in a hostage situation. Then there was more firearms training, which was still the big thing at Quantico.

Much of what we eventually came to teach about hostage negotiation was learned not in the classroom from other agents but in the cold crucible of the field. As I mentioned, one of the cases that earned Pat Mullany his reputation was that of Cory Moore. Moore, who had been diagnosed a paranoid schizophrenic, made a number of public demands after taking the Warrensville Heights, Ohio, police captain and his secretary hostage in the captain’s own office. Among them was that all white people leave the earth immediately.

Now, in negotiating strategy, you don’t want to give in to demands if you can possibly help it. Some demands, however, aren’t terribly feasible under any circumstances. This certainly qualified as one of those. The case got so much national attention that the president of the United States, Jimmy Carter, offered to speak with Moore and help resolve the situation. While this was certainly well-intentioned on Mr. Carter’s part, and indicative of the willingness he subsequently demonstrated for attempting to settle seemingly intractable conflicts around the world, this is not good negotiating strategy and I would never want it to happen in a situation I was managing. Neither did Pat Mullany. The problem with offering up the top guy, in addition to encouraging other desperate little people to try the same thing, is that you lose your maneuvering room. You always want to negotiate through intermediaries, which allows you to stall for time and avoid making promises you don’t want to keep. Once you put the hostage taker in direct contact with someone he perceives as a decision maker, everyone is backed against the wall, and if you don’t give in to his demands, you risk having things head south in a hurry. The longer you keep them talking, the better.

By the time I was teaching hostage negotiation at Quantico in the early 1980s, we used a disturbing videotape that had been made in St. Louis a couple of years before. Ultimately, we stopped showing it because the St. Louis Police Department was so upset by it. In the tape, a young black man holds up a bar. The robbery’s a bust, he gets trapped inside, the police surround the place, and he’s got a bunch of hostages.

The police organize a team of black and white officers to talk to him. But as the tape shows, rather than trying to deal with him on an objective level, they start jive-talking him and trying to get down on his level. They’re all talking at once, constantly interrupting him, not listening to what he’s saying, not trying to figure out what he wants to get out of this situation.

The camera swings away just as the chief of police arrives on the scene—again, I’d never let this happen. Once the chief is there, he “officially” ignores the demands, whereupon the guy points the gun at his own head and blows his brains out for all to see.

Contrast that with Pat Mullany’s handling of the Cory Moore case. Obviously, Moore was crazy, and obviously, all the white people weren’t going to leave planet Earth. But by listening to the subject, Mullany was able to discern what Moore really wanted and what would satisfy him. Mullany offered Moore a press conference in which to air his views, and Moore released the hostages bloodlessly.

During the course at Quantico, my name got around the Behavioral Science Unit, and Pat Mullany, Dick Ault, and Bob Ressler recommended me to Jack Pfaff. Before I left, the unit chief called me down to his basement office for an interview. Pfaff was a personable, friendly guy. A swarthy chain-smoker, he looked a lot like Victor Mature. He told me the instructors had been impressed with me and told me to consider coming back to Quantico as a counselor for the FBI National Academy program. I was flattered by the offer and said I’d very much like to do that.

Back in Milwaukee, I was still on the reactive squad and the SWAT team, but was spending much of my time going around the state training business executives on how to deal with kidnapping and extortion threats and bank officers on how to deal with the single-bandit and gang armed robberies that were plaguing rural banks particularly.

It was amazing how naive some of these sophisticated businessmen were about personal security, allowing their schedules, even their vacation plans, to be published in local newspapers and company newsletters. In many cases, they were sitting ducks for would-be kidnappers and extortionists. I tried to teach them and their secretaries and subordinates how to evaluate calls and requests for information, and how to determine whether an extortion call that came in was genuine or not. For example, it wasn’t unusual for an executive to get a call that his wife or child had been kidnapped and that he was to take a certain amount of money to such and such a drop. In point of fact, that wife or child was perfectly safe and in no danger the entire time, but the would-be profiteer had known that the family member would be unreachable for whatever reason, and if the criminal had one or two legitimate-sounding facts, he could convince the panicked executive to accede to his demands.

By the same token, we were able to cut down on the success of bank robberies by getting officials to institute some simple procedures. One of the common robbery techniques was to wait outside early in the morning when the branch manager would arrive to open for the day. The subject would grab the guy, then as other unsuspecting employees would arrive for work, they would be taken, too. The next thing you know, you have a whole bank branch full of hostages and a major mess on your hands.

I got some of the branches to institute a basic code system. When the first person arrived in the morning and found that the coast was clear, he or she would do one thing—adjust a curtain, move a plant, turn on a particular light, whatever—to signal to everyone else that all was okay. If that signal was absent when the second person arrived, he or she would not go in, but would call the police immediately.

Likewise, we trained tellers, who are the real key to any bank’s security, what to look for and what to do in panic situations without becoming dead heroes. We explained the proper handling of exploding money packs, which were just then going into wide usage. And based on the interviews I’d done with a number of successful bank robbers, I instructed tellers to take the holdup note as it was presented to them, then “nervously” drop it on the floor on their side of the cage rather than hand it back to the robber, thereby preserving a valuable piece of evidence.

I knew from my interviews that robbers don’t like to hit banks cold, so it could be extremely valuable to make a note of individuals coming into the branch whom you’ve never seen before, particularly with a simple or routine request, such as the exchange of paper money for a roll of dimes. If the teller had been able to jot down a license number or noted any kind of ID, a subsequent robbery could often be solved quickly.

I’d begun hanging out with city homicide detectives and around the medical examiner’s office. Any forensic pathologist, as well as most good detectives, will tell you that the single most important piece of evidence in any murder investigation is the victim’s body, and I wanted to learn as much as I could. I’m sure part of the fascination also went back to my youthful days of wanting to be a veterinarian and to understand how the structures and functions of the body related to living. But though I enjoyed working both with the homicide squad and the ME’s staff, what really interested me was the psychological side: what makes a killer tick? What makes him commit a murder under the particular circumstances he does?

During my weeks at Quantico, I’d been exposed to some of the more bizarre murder cases, and one of the most bizarre of all turned out to be practically in my backyard—actually about 140 miles away. But that was close enough.

Back in the 1950s, Edward Gein had been a recluse living in the farming community of Plainfield, Wisconsin—population 642. He had begun his criminal career quietly, as a grave robber. His particular interest was the corpse’s skin, which he removed, tanned, and draped across his own body, in addition to adorning a tailor’s dummy and various home furnishings. At one point he had considered a sex-change operation—still revolutionary in the midwest of the 1950s—and when that seemed impractical, decided on the next best thing, which was making himself a woman suit out of real women. Some speculate he was trying to become his dead, domineering mother. If this case is starting to sound familiar, aspects of it were used by both Robert Bloch in his novel Psycho (made into the Hitchcock film classic) and Thomas Harris in The Silence of the Lambs. Harris picked up the story while sitting in on our classes at Quantico.

Gein could probably have continued living in ghoulish obscurity had his fantasy needs not expanded into “creating” more corpses to harvest. When we began our serial-killer study, this escalation is something we came to recognize in virtually all cases. Gein was charged with the murder of two middle-aged women, though likely there were more. In January of 1958, he was found legally insane and then spent the rest of his life in the Central State Hospital at Waupun and the Mendota Mental Health Institute, where he was always a model prisoner. In 1984, Gein died peacefully at age seventy-seven in the Mendota geriatric ward.

Needless to say, as a local detective or a special agent in the field, you don’t get to see this sort of thing too often. When I got back to Milwaukee, I wanted to learn as much about the case as I could. But when I checked with the state attorney general’s office, I found that the records had been sealed because of the insanity angle.

Saying I was an FBI agent with an educational interest in the crimes, I got the office to open the files to me. I’ll never forget going with the clerk and taking the boxes off the endless shelves and actually having to break a wax seal to get in. But inside, I saw photographs that instantly became seared in my mind: headless, naked female bodies, hung upside down by ropes and pulleys, slit open in front all the way from sternum to vaginal area with all genitalia cut out. Other photos showed severed heads lying on the table, their blank, open eyes staring into nothingness. As horrible as these images were to contemplate, I began speculating as to what they said about the person who had created them, and how that knowledge could have aided in his capture. And in a real sense, I’ve been contemplating that ever since.

At the end of September 1976, I left Milwaukee for my temporary duty assignment, or TDY, as a counselor for the 107th National Academy session at Quantico. Pam had to stay on her own in Milwaukee, running the house and taking care of one-year-old Erika, while still teaching. This was the first of my many professional absences over the years, and I’m afraid too many of us in the Bureau, in the military, and in the foreign service give too little thought to the incredible burdens on the spouse left behind.

The FBI National Academy program is a tough, eleven-week course for senior and accomplished law enforcement officials from around the nation and the world. In many cases, Academy students are trained right alongside FBI agents. The way to tell the difference between trainees is by shirt color. FBI agents wear blue while NA students wear red. Another thing: NA students tend to be older and more experienced. To qualify, you have to be recommended by your local commanding officer and accepted by the Quantico staff. Not only does the National Academy provide expert training in the latest in law enforcement knowledge and techniques, it also serves as an extended and informal environment for the FBI to build personal relationships with local police officers, which has proved an invaluable resource over and over again. The head of the National Academy program was Jim Cotter, a real law enforcement institution whom the police loved.

As a counselor, I was responsible for one section of students—Section B—consisting of fifty men. Even though Director Patrick Gray’s, and then Clarence Kelley’s, policies were opening the Bureau from the narrow strictures of the Hoover years, no women were yet invited to the National Academy. In addition to the Americans, I had people from England, Canada, and Egypt. You live in the same dormitories and you’re expected to be everything from instructor to social director to therapist to den mother. It was a way for the Behavioral Science staff to see how you interacted with police, if you liked the atmosphere at Quantico, and how you handled stress.

And there was plenty of that. Away from their families and living in dorm rooms for the first time in their adult lives, unable to drink in their rooms, sharing the bathroom with people they’d never met before, pushed to physical challenges most of them hadn’t had to endure since new-recruit training, the students got an excellent education, but at a price. By about the sixth week, many of the cops were going nuts, bouncing off the white cinder-block walls.

And this, of course, took its toll on the counselors as well. Each one handled the assignment differently. As with everything else in my life, I decided that if we were all going to get through this in one piece, I’d better have a sense of humor. Some counselors took other approaches. One was so strict and intense, he’d be chewing his guys’ butts out during intramural games. By the third week, his section was so pissed off, they gave him a set of luggage—the symbolic message being, “Get the hell out of here.” Another counselor was a special agent I’ll call Fred. He’d never had a drinking problem until he came to Quantico, but he sure got one there.

The counselors were all supposed to watch for signs of students becoming depressed. In fact, Fred had taken to locking himself in his room, smoking and drinking himself into oblivion. When you’re dealing with street-hardened cops, it’s survival of the fittest. Any weakness and you’re dead meat. A really nice guy, Fred was so sensitive and understanding and gullible, he didn’t stand a chance with this crew.

There was a standing rule: no women on the floor. One night, one of the cops comes to Fred saying he “can’t take it anymore.” That’s not something you want to hear as a counselor. His roommate has a different woman in bed every night and he can’t sleep. So Fred goes with the guy to the room and sees half a dozen other men standing outside the door, waiting their turn, holding money in their sweaty hands. Fred freaks, he barges in on the guy who’s on top of this long-haired blonde, grabs him, and pulls him off the woman, who turns out to be an inflatable doll.

One week later, another cop comes to Fred’s room in the middle of the night saying his depressed roommate, Harry, has just opened the window and jumped. First of all, the windows in the dorm building aren’t supposed to open. So Fred races down the hall, into the room, peers out the open window, and sees Harry covered with blood lying on the grass. Fred races down the stairs and out to the suicide scene, whereupon Harry jumps up and scares the shit out of him. It happens a bottle of ketchup had been appropriated from the cafeteria that very night! By graduation, Fred’s hair was falling out, he wasn’t shaving, his leg was numb, and he was walking with a limp. A neurologist could find nothing clinically wrong with him. A year later, back in his field office, he was out on a medical disability discharge. I felt sorry for the guy, but in one respect at least cops are a lot like criminals: you’ve got to prove how tough you are with each.

Despite my easygoing and humorous approach, I was not immune either, though fortunately, most of it was camp stuff. On one occasion, my group removed all the furniture from my room; on another, they short-sheeted my bed; and on several more, they stretched cellophane across my toilet seat. You have to be able to relieve stress somehow.

There came a point when they were driving me nuts, I was desperate to get away for a little while, and like the good cops they were, they sensed that moment precisely. They prop my green MGB up with cinder blocks, lifting it just enough off the ground so that the wheels missed by a small fraction of an inch. I get in, turn on the engine, I pop the clutch, put the car in gear, and futilely gun the engine, unable to figure out why I’m going nowhere fast. I get out, cursing at the damn British engineering; I open the hood, I kick the tires, I bend down and look under the car. And all of a sudden, the entire parking lot is lit up. They’re all in their cars shining their headlights at me. Since they claimed to like me, they actually put the car back on terra firma for me after they’d had their fun.

The foreign students were in for their share, too. A lot of these guys would come over with empty suitcases, go to the PX, and buy like crazy. I particularly remember one high-ranking Egyptian colonel. He’d asked a cop from Detroit what fuck meant. (Big mistake.) The cop had told him, somewhat accurately, that this was an all-purpose word that had many, many different usages depending on the situation, but it was almost always appropriate. One of its meanings is “beautiful” or “classy.” So he’s in the PX, goes over to the photography counter, points, and booms out, “I wish to buy that fucking camera.”

The horrified young woman clerk says, “Excuse me?”

“I want to buy that fucking camera!”

Some of the other guys quickly get to him and explain that while the term does have many usages, it is not used around women and children.

Then there was the Japanese police officer who had dutifully asked one of the other cops the protocol for greeting instructors one holds in high regard. So every time I saw him in the hallway, he would smile, bow respectfully, and greet me with, “Fuck you, Mr. Douglas.”

Rather than getting all complicated, I’d bow back, smile, and say, “Fuck you, too.”

Generally, when the Japanese sent over someone to the National Academy, they would insist on sending two students. After a while it became clear that one would be the superior officer and the other a subordinate who would be responsible for shining the senior man’s shoes, making his bed, cleaning his room, and generally acting as his servant. One time, several of the other students went to Jim Cotter and complained that the top guy was regularly practicing his karate and martial arts by beating the hell out of his companion. Cotter took the top guy aside, explained that every student was equal at the Academy, and stated in no uncertain terms that this kind of behavior would not be tolerated. But it just goes to prove the kind of cultural barriers that have to be overcome.

I sat in on NA classes and got a sense of how they were taught. By the end of the session in December, both the Behavioral Science and Education Units offered me jobs. The Education Unit chief offered to pay for more graduate school, but I thought I’d be more interested in Behavioral Science.

I came back to Milwaukee a week before Christmas, so confident I’d be getting the posting to Quantico that Pam and I bought a five-acre lot in an area south of the FBI Academy in Quantico. In January 1977, the Bureau announced a manpower study, during which time personnel transfers would be frozen. So there went my new job; I was stuck with this lot in Virginia and had to borrow money from my dad for the down payment, and I still had no idea what my future in the Bureau was going to be.

But then, several weeks later, I’m out on a case with an agent named Henry McCaslin when I get a call from headquarters that I’m going to be transferred to Quantico in June and assigned to Behavioral Science.

At thirty-two years of age, I would be taking the place of Pat Mullany, who was going on to the inspection staff at headquarters. Those were big shoes to fill and I looked forward to the challenge. My only real concern was the people I’d be teaching. I knew how they could take apart counselors, even ones they liked. I could only imagine how tough they’d be on instructors who were trying to teach them their own business. I had the right dance down, but I wasn’t sure if I knew the song well enough. If I was going to be teaching them behavioral science, I’d better figure out some way to eliminate as much of the BS as I could. And if I was going to be able to say anything of value to a police chief fifteen or twenty years older than me, I knew I’d better have the goods to back it up.

And it was that fear that led me to the next stage of the journey.

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