The Art of Crime Detection?

Recently I posted some information about forensic art standards and the need for law enforcement education on the selection of qualified forensic artists on my LinkedIn Group.  Then I checked the web and searched for: "National Standards for Forensic Artists" just to see what I might find.  Interestingly enough Google returned the following results (8/24/13) -- the top two were: 1. IAI's Forensic Art Guidelines, and 2. "Alex Lesson Plan".  The IAI has done a great job at giving law enforcement agencies and investigative commanders a good foundation for building their forensic art units.  I also believe that this document, like other important guidelines, should be updated and scrutinized for best practices by unbiased academia and recognized leaders in the field. I also believe that it should be published and presented to every police chief, sheriff and district attorney in the US.  Marketing the document as "the" respected source for law enforcement, about forensic art, should be the goal of the IAI or for that matter, the American Academy of Forensic Sciences.

In the meantime there are web sites who try and help educate others about our discipline and sometimes do a pretty creative job.  Take for instance the ALEX Lesson Plan   .  The lesson plan is well thought out and gives students an idea about what forensic artists do.  When you check out the resources, The Art of Crime Detection, you get a pretty interesting interactive tool to give students the idea of the composite art task.  The "PDArtist" digital handheld device used in the assignment is reminiscent of the composite art software programs used by agencies all across the US.  The slides feature the same methodology that many forensic artists use in creating sketches. This PDArtist asks the student to select from a series of features to create the composite sketch of the suspect shown in the previous scenes.  It definitely challenges your depth of recall and recognition. You should definitely give it a try.

Going through this exercise reminded me of the importance of placing ourselves in the mindset of the eyewitness.  Reminding us how difficult the task of remembering is and giving us an opportunity to scrutinize our technique. Going through the process of being interviewed and learning first hand how recall and recognition work will give you as the forensic artist, and more importantly you as the detective, an idea about the reliability of the information gathered from the sketch interview.  You know my stand about using reference images to stimulate recall in the cognitive sketch process, so I won't bore you with this again (read my previous blogs).

I would love to see us working with eyewitness memory researchers and give them access to our "real world applications" and help us bring to light some fascinating data for all to see and compare.  It is about time that memory recall research move out from the lab and into the sketch interview sessions with real forensic artists to understand the dynamics of the sketch interview and give everyone an idea about the best practices.