Douglas joined the FBI in 1970 and his first assignment was in Detroit, Michigan. In the field, he served as a sniper on the local FBI SWAT team and later became a hostage negotiator. He transferred to the FBI's Behavioral Sciences Unit (BSU) in 1977 where he taught hostage negotiation and applied criminal psychology at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia to new FBI special agents, field agents, and police officers from all over the United States. He created and managed the FBI's Criminal Profiling Program and was later promoted to unit chief of the Investigative Support Unit, a division of the FBI’s National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC).
While traveling around the country providing instruction to local police, Douglas and his colleague Robert Ressler began interviewing serial killers and other violent sex offenders at various prisons. Some of the most notable violent criminals in recent history were interviewed as part of the study, including David Berkowitz, Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, Charles Manson, Lynette Fromme, Arthur Bremer, Sarah Jane Moore, Edmund Kemper, James Earl Ray, Sirhan Sirhan, Dennis Rader, Richard Speck, Monte Rissell, Donald Harvey, Joseph Kondro and Joseph Paul Franklin. The result was the book Sexual Homicide: Patterns and Motives, followed by the Crime Classification Manual (CCM). Douglas later received two Thomas Jefferson Awards for academic excellence from the University of Virginia for his work on the study.
Douglas examined crime scenes and created profiles of the perpetrators, describing their habits and attempting to predict their next moves. In cases that his work helped to snare the criminals, he built strategies for interrogating and prosecuting them, as well. Douglas was instrumental in the capture of numerous serial killers, and for years he attempted to catch the Green River Killer in the Seattle, Washington metro area. The Green River case nearly cost him his life, when his stressed and overworked body was unable to fight off viral encephalitis. Following his retirement from the FBI in 1995, Douglas has gained international fame as the author of a series of books detailing his life tracking serial killers, and has appeared numerous times on television. His books are considered to be some of the most insightful works written on the minds, motives, and operation of serial killers, and the methods and lives of those who track them. He also works as a consultant, most notably in the JonBenét Ramsey murder. His controversial analysis concluded that the Ramseys were not responsible for the death of their daughter. This was the first case in Douglas's career where he was requested to consult for both the prosecution and the defense. In July 2008 the Ramsey family were cleared as suspects after an analysis of DNA found on their daughter's undergarments did not match them. Douglas was consulted in yet another controversial case known as "The West Memphis Three". In 1993 three eight year old boys were murdered and police and the prosecutors office claimed the children died as a result of a satanic sacrifice. Three teens were later tried and convicted. Douglas concluded the case was not satanic but rather a personal cause homicide. The case is currently on appeal in both state and federal courts.
John Douglas pioneered "criminal profiling." At the time of criminal profiling's conception, Douglas claimed to have been doubted and criticized by his own colleagues until both police and the FBI realized that he had developed an extremely useful tool for the capture of criminals.
Douglas has also written text books for criminal profiling classes. He is the author, along with Mark Olshaker, of several books. There is also a screenplay being written for the book, Mindhunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit.
Douglas has joined College Tonight's board of advisers.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, to Jack and Dolores Douglas. A veteran of four years in the United States Air Force (1966-1970), he holds several degrees: B.S. (Eastern New Mexico University); M.S. (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee), Ed.S. Educational Specialist (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee) and a doctorate in Adult Education (Nova Southeastern University, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida).
Douglas was married to Pamela Elizabeth Modica (Pamela Douglas). They have three children: Lauren, Erika, and John Jr. "Jed." Currently, he lives in the Washington D.C suburbs.
Jack Crawford, a character in the Thomas Harris novel The Silence of the Lambs was directly based on Douglas. Crawford was played by Dennis Farina in the film Manhunter, by Scott Glenn in the film version of The Silence of the Lambs and Harvey Keitel in the film version of Red Dragon.
Douglas was also used as the character model for Frank Black in Millennium, as well as Dr. Sam Waters (Ally Walker) on Profiler.
Ressler, Robert K., Ann W. Burgess. John E. Douglas. "Sexual Homicide: Patterns and Motives." Lexington, Mass.: Lexington Books. 1988. ISBN 978-0669165593
Douglas, John E., Ann W. Burgess, R.N., D.N Sc., Allen G. Burgess, Robert K. Ressler. "Crime Classification Manual: A Standard System for Investigating and Classifying Violent Crimes." Lexington, Mass.: Lexington Books. 1992. ISBN 978-0669246384
Douglas, John E., Mark Olshaker. "Mindhunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit." New York: Scribner. 1995. ISBN 978-0671013752
Douglas, John E., Mark Olshaker. "Journey into Darkness." New York: Scribner. 1997. ISBN 978-0684833040
Douglas, John E., Mark Olshaker. "Obsession: The FBI's Legendary Profiler Probes the Psyches of Killers, Rapists and Stalkers and Their Victims and Tells How to Fight Back." New York: Scribner. 1998. ISBN 978-0684845609
Douglas, John E. "Guide to Careers in the FBI." New York: Simon and Schuster. 1998. ISBN 978-0684855042
Douglas, John E., Mark Olshaker. "The Anatomy of Motive: The FBI's Legendary Mindhunter Explores the Key to Understanding and Catching Violent Criminals." New York: Scribner. 1999. ISBN 978-0684845982
Douglas, John E., Mark Olshaker. "The Cases That Haunt Us." New York: Scribner. 2000. ISBN 978-0684846002
Douglas, John E., "John Douglas' Guide to the Police Officer Exams." Kaplan Publishing. 2000. ISBN 978-0684855066
Douglas, John E., Stephen Singular. "Anyone You Want Me to Be: A True Story of Sex and Death on the Internet." New York: Scribner. 2003. ISBN 978-0743226356
Douglas, John E. "John Douglas's Guide to Landing a Career in Law Enforcement." McGraw-Hill. 2004. ISBN 978-0071417174
Douglas, John E., Ann W. Burgess, R.N., D.N Sc., Allen G. Burgess, Robert K. Ressler. "Crime Classification Manual: A Standard System for Investigating and Classifying Violent Crimes, 2nd Edition." San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 2006. ISBN 978-0787986421
Douglas, John E., Johnny Dodd. "Inside the Mind of BTK: The True Story Behind the Thirty-Year Hunt for the Notorious Wichita Serial Killer." San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 2007. ISBN 978-0787984847
Douglas, John E., Mark Olshaker. "Broken Wings (Mindhunters)." Atria. 1999. ISBN 978-0671023911
Douglas, John E. "Man Down: A Broken Wings Thriller." (alternate title: "Man Down, Vol. 2") Atria. 2002. ISBN 978-0671023928
John E. DouglasJohn E. DouglasJohn E. DouglasJohn E. Douglas