We like to think cops are there to keep us safe — but it turns out a frightening number of serial killers are attracted to joining the police force.

That's one of the creepy findings of criminologist Professor Michael Arntfield, whose new book Murder in Plain English has revealed the most common career paths of the world's most notorious murderers.

After studying the patterns of serial killers from the past half century, Arntfield found these brutal criminals tended to be attracted to certain jobs which tend to either gratify their mental disorders — or because they made it easier to lure and kill victims.

He told IFLScience killers gravitated towards jobs due to a "combination of mobility, power (whether structural or actual), and the fact many jobs also simultaneously satisfy the underlying paraphilias, or sexual preoccupations, that also fuel killers' crimes".


He said "mechanophilia" — a sexual obsession with machines — was strongly related to both necrophilia and murder, which could explain why serial killers like Fred West were obsessed with tools and machines.

And when alleged Golden State killer Joseph James DeAngelo was arrested recently, it was revealed he had previously worked in not one but three of the most common serial killer careers, including as a police officer, military personnel, and warehouse worker.

"The FBI already has a taskforce built around the understanding that highway travel for work is correlated with a great deal of interstate and multi-jurisdictional serial murder," Dr Arntfield said.

"In future, it will also assist with, ideally, better screening — especially for police and similar jobs that still allow too many to squeeze through."

According to Dr Arntfield, top serial careers can be broken into five categories, including skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled jobs, professional careers and professional and government occupations.

They include:

Skilled jobs

1. Aircraft machinist/assembler
2. Shoemaker/repair person
3. Car upholsterer


Semi-skilled jobs

1. Forestry worker/arborist
2. Truck driver
3. Warehouse manager

Unskilled jobs

1. General labourer
2. Hotel porter
3. Service station attendant

Professional jobs

1. Police
2. Army
3. Religious official

Professional and Government Occupations

1. Police/security official
2. Military personnel
3. Religious official