MSN.com had an interesting article this morning about suspect sketches that helped make an arrest in a case. I was lucky to have access to good artists that drew very good sketches, many of which, once the suspect was arrested, looked like they posed for the sketch. Many I see put out by agencies are a joke and don’t even look like a real person.
I hate how they depict them on television. The witness sits in a chair and says, “He had a large nose,” etc. In reality, the artist has a book of different facial features, each with a code. The witness looks through the book and tried to point out features they think looked like the person. Once all those are picked out, the artist draws the sketch based on those pieces, (hence the term composite). When the sketch is done, the artist sits down with the witness again and makes any changes the witness wants. At that point, the witness scores the drawing from 1 t0 10, with 10 being best. Most witnesses score then between 7 and 9.
The artist I used the most was Betty Kincaid. She had been a civilian employee at SPD, but after she retired, she contracted for sketch work. (I mention her a couple times in my book).
Aside from being a great artist, she was a great interviewer of the victim or witness. She was able to draw out the victim’s memory with an almost hypnotic style.
A woman had been attacked in the middle of the night in her South Lake Union condo while she slept. The suspect had crawled up the outside patios to her unit, which I think was on the seventh floor. It was dark, and she had 20/400 vision with her glasses off.
I had Betty work on a sketch with her. The victim was very pessimistic about her ability to do a sketch, but we tried anyway.
When the sketch was done, she scored it a 4. (The lowest score I’d ever seen). When the suspect was eventually arrested, he could have posed for the sketch. It was incredible work.
Another time working sex crimes, a victim mailed in a sketch of the suspect. It was a stick-figure. I told the other detectives in the unit, “This is obviously the work of the Saint.”
The MSN article is here.