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What Criminal Minds Gets Wrong About The BAU Team

For 15 seasons, "Criminal Minds" successfully tweaked the police procedural formula by looking at the motivations of crime, rather than its prevention. The long-running series focused on the Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU), a division of the FBI dedicated to solving sex crimes and serial killings through criminal profiling. Much like "Law & Order," Criminal Minds was based directly on an actual unit of the FBI, and it also used real-life serial killers and predators as inspiration for specific episodes.

For the sake of drama, however, the series often played fast and loose with the truth, exaggerating the BAU's role in actively hunting down criminals and changing details from actual FBI cases for maximum effect on the screen. Even the way characters joined the BAU on "Criminal Minds" is different from how the real unit approaches hiring profilers.

One change, regarding how the fictional BAU tackles crime compared to the real-world FBI, is especially jarring.

The real BAU doesn't just handle violent crimes

In the show, the Behavioral Analysis Unit is a single team responsible for evaluating and profiling various violent crimes on behalf of the FBI. This couldn't be further from the truth for the real BAU.

In fact, the Behavioral Analysis Unit is separated into various divisions that respond to specific crimes, not just killers and sexual predators (per ScreenRant). The responsibilities of the divisions include arson, child abduction, corruption, and even white-collar crimes. While criminal psychology is primarily linked to catching killers and monsters in the media, it's a field of analysis that can be applied to non-violent crime as well.

However, if audiences wanted their favorite shows to stick to realism, the cases on crime procedurals would last for months, and the culprits wouldn't always be so obvious. "Criminal Minds" made the right call by embracing pulp over verisimilitude, and the result lasted 15 years and several cast changes. Only one year after its cancellation, the show appears to be getting a mini-series revival. That's a pretty amazing streak for a procedural that now dates back to a time before smartphones.