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The Importance of Forensic Behavior in Public Policy

The presence of forensic behavioral studies programs within universities has risen in recent years, especially as popular TV shows like Criminal Minds have familiarized audiences with the discipline. While exciting, these dramatic representations of forensic behavioral science aren’t exact reenactments of how forensic behavior is used in the real world. 

This quick guide will uncover what people who study forensic behavior actually do for a living, then go over how forensics can influence public policy. 

If you think forensic behavioral studies is the path for you, Alliant offers degree programs for all stages in your career. Check out Forensic Degree Programs here!

What is Forensic Behavioral Science? 

As a general definition, forensic behavioral science is an area of study that applies clinical psychology to understand, prevent and mitigate violence and crime to improve social, law enforcement, public policy, and legal matters. It is important for lawmakers, judges, police officers, first responders, and many other community leaders to have insight into human behavior, especially as that behavior relates to criminal activity. 

The essential component of a forensic behavioral scientist’s job is to carry out psychological assessments of individuals involved in the legal system or court proceedings. Very often, forensic psychologists are called upon as expert witnesses in the course of a trial to provide a knowledgeable opinion on matters pertaining to the case. 

Forensic behavioral science is also used to inform the complex decisions facing today’s public safety, private security, and first responders. Therefore, people who study forensic behavioral science also learn about psychology, public policy, and law—it’s an interdisciplinary area of study. Forensic behavioral science programs tend to emphasize clinical skills. These may include: 

  • Psychological assessments   
  • Investigation skills
  • Research skills 
  • Interviewing 
  • Writing accurate reports  
  • Designing and implementing treatment and mitigation programs
  • Verbal communication skills (especially for providing expert testimony in court) 
  • Case presentation  

What do Forensic Behavioral Scientists Do? 

There are many different answers to this question. Here are a few examples of the duties they commonly perform: 

  • Threat assessment for schools and universities 
  • Understanding and helping develop public policy solutions to help mitigate crime and violence
  • Consult on and help support the hiring process for law enforcement  
  • Assessment of post-traumatic stress disorder in legal proceedings 
  • Child custody evaluations 
  • Develop intervention programs for juvenile offenders  

The above list by no means exhaustive. People who study forensic behavioral science go on to a variety of careers in a number of industries. Let’s take a closer look at some of the organizations that frequently hire forensic behavioral scientists: 

  • Forensic laboratories – Forensic behavioral scientists can often be hired by medical examiners, coroners, police departments, district attorneys, and other entities to carry out investigations. In these organizations, forensic behavioral scientists’ duties may include crime scene reconstruction, workplace crime investigation, human performance monitoring, and much more. 
  • Hospitals and state facilities – Forensic behavioral scientists are essential to the function of mental health services within certain hospitals, prisons, and other government centers. They perform risk assessments, evaluate individuals’ responsibility for their criminal behavior, help decide if someone should be able to refuse treatment, and are instrumental in parental fitness and child custody assessments. 
  • Government agencies – Forensic behavioral scientists frequently join the ranks of the following government agencies: 
    • Drug Enforcement Agency 
    • Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms 
    • U.S. Department of Justice 
    • Federal Bureau of Investigation 
    • Central Intelligence Agency 
    • U.S. Secret Service 
    • Department of Homeland Security
    • Federal Emergency Management Agency  

When Forensic Behavioral Science Meets Public Policy 

One of the main places where forensic behavioral science and public policy intersect is in the arena of research. The U.S. Department of Justice, for example, is a sponsor of cutting-edge forensic behavior research. This research is vital to the act of quickly and accurately processing evidence and concluding investigations. Justice Department officials, as well as attorneys and lawmakers, rely on this research to inform their actions.  

Forensic Behavior in Law Enforcement and Crime Prevention

A major aspect of public policy is how law enforcement agents interact with the people in their communities. Some of these behavior guidelines are written into law, but many of them have to be developed and taught to officers in training. Forensic behavioral scientists are often hired as police consultants, and in this role they share effective strategies for engaging people in dangerous situations. A few of the policies that forensic behavioral scientists help form are: 

  • Suicide prevention training 
  • Anger management  
  • Critical Incident Stress Debriefing services  
  • Providing better methods for handling situations that involve the disabled or mentally ill  

Forensic behavioral scientists can also work as crime analysts. A crime analyst is someone who forms statistical models of criminal occurrences in a given area, and works with government agencies to shape new policies aimed at more effective crime prevention. Many of the specialized skills developed in a forensic behavioral science program are critical to success in this role. These may include: 

  • Forming criminal profiles 
  • Collating crime data 
  • Evaluating demographic and economic factors  
  • Examining statistics  
  • Interpreting forensic research 
  • Understanding and mitigating crime and violence

Starting Your Career in Forensic Behaviorial Science with Alliant

Public policy is, after all, a term that refers to any of the actions a government takes to address the issues facing society. Government officials often include forensic behavioral research to decide which actions are best to take. Therefore, choosing to study forensic behavioral science with Alliant University is an excellent way to have a real impact on public policy in your community, your country, and the world at large. 


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