Forensic sketch artists work with police to interview victims or witnesses of crimes in order to recreate a semi-realistic drawing that reflects the image of the perpetrator to the best of the witness’s memory. Forensic sketch artists should be able to create these drawings from only a description, and must be able to extrapolate from what is given.
The difficulty in the art of forensic sketching is that much of it relies on the witness. The artist must be able to relate with this person, who may be distraught at what they have witnessed, and find a way to interview them and interpret their descriptions. In addition, witness testimony is notoriously unreliable, as memory in a stressful situation is not very accurate. Witnesses may believe they saw things that they did not, or some similar situation, which can lead to sketches that do not accurately reflect the perpetrator.
Careers in forensic sketching are currently threatened by the advent of computer software that may do their jobs for them. Although New York and Los Angeles have sketch artists on staff full-time, other major cities do not.
There are International Association for Identification courses in forensic sketching available; however, they are not required. Training required varies based on the law enforcement agency because of the artistic focus in the career.
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