Why isn't there an associates degree in forensic art?

There are degrees in criminal justice for students that want to become crime scene technicians and police officers, why isn't there a degree in forensic art? Forensic artists meet with victims and witnesses of crimes everyday and they have to maneuver the complexities of fragile memories and adhere to the best portrait techniques. They have to understand the rules of evidence and be mindful of the psychology of victimization. They must be cautious of erroneous information by the witness and instill confidence in their detectives as they work with them on a case by case basis.

Everyday officers must meet certain standards to be issued a weapon and be entrusted to administer the laws of their state. We trust them with our confidential information and we rely on them for their integrity. They pass psychological tests, intense tactical training, some investigative procedures techniques, and life saving skills to help the citizens they protect. Why do we not expect the same from our forensic artists?

Agencies across the country have relied on the talents of dedicated sketch artists to assist them in identifying violent criminals in their communities. Why don’t these same agencies demand our private and public universities to offer these working specialists and aspiring forensic artists an opportunity to challenge their skills and gain knowledge in their pursuit of a 2-year forensic art degree? How can agencies accept the freelance sketch artist, that has not been vetted, to be a part of the investigative team?

I have enjoyed my career as the police artist for the largest agency in Silicon Valley. I received my training in the rules of evidence, advanced investigative interviewing, and court room testimony, through the police academy and advanced training provided to me as a police officer. I enhanced my skills as an artist by pursuing a degree in graphic design and one-on-one seminars with a master pastel portrait artist. The path for me was clear and defined when I joined the department as a patrol officer. The path for others seeking a career as forensic artist is not that clear.

I believe it would be possible for a junior college to offer a two year degree in forensic art. By combining the disciplines of: portrait drawing, psychology, and criminal justice courses, the institution could offer a forensic art student the foundation for a well rounded degree. In turn the agency accepting her application, as the forensic artist, would feel confident of her qualifications. The final exams would be practical exercises where the student would conduct a sketch interview with fellow students in the basic and advanced forensic art techniques. The forensic art student would only pass with the minimum of results: proficiency in sketching the human face; conducting an unbiased interview; and maintaining the integrity of the investigation. In those four semesters the student would be exposed to hundreds of critiques to their sketches; This heuristic approach to gaining their AA degree would be invaluable to the student and the agency.

Students from criminal justice, psychology, and art could take some of the courses offered for this particular degree and build on their degrees. The exposure to forensic art would be interesting and valuable to any student taking the instruction.

Here is my recent proposal to a local college. It is still in the works and may happen. If anyone is interested in contacting me about adding forensic art to their criminal justice program, contact me at gil@zamorasketch.com.