A Win/Win For The Hand Drawn Composite

Chuck Jimmy Fallon

by Charles T. Jackson

On November 1st, 2013 I officially retired from the ranks of the police department that I had been with for 25 years. In anticipation of this retirement, I developed skills in the field of theatrical set design and construction, and have been very active in my community since 2008 in nearly all aspects of theatre. I design, build and paint sets for our youth theatre, our teen theatre, our Middle School, our High School, as well as out Community Theatre productions. I couldn’t possibly have anticipated how much my being involved in these two fields could have prepared me for a call I would receive the afternoon of November 15, 2013.

I had spent most of the day discussing possible applications of my composite imaging skills within the county I reside with an old friend that has a clue how to navigate the political channels that can sometimes challenge gaining a position from which one could serve most effectively. It had been a good day so far. I had gotten my resume, samples of my work, and most importantly the fact that I didn’t want to stop serving the Detectives in the area just because I had retired, into the hands of someone that I knew cared, and could possibly make some headway. I had just finished texting an update to my wife when the call came in.

The subject on the other end of the line said, hello, he introduced himself, and said that he was from Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and he asked if I was the Charles Jackson from the web site Forensic Art NJ that he’d found in a Google search. He went on to ask if I would be interested in participating in a segment that required the use of a “real” composite artist. I said that I would be glad to participate, and after determining that I would be able to be in New York City on the day of the taping, he revealed some of the details of the segment . He said that I would be doing a composite from a description supplied by a staff member, of another staff member, and then I would sit down with Jimmy and compare the outcome of the description, and how it compared with the subject described. He said that he would need me to send a picture of myself sometime over the next couple of days, and that I would likely be hearing from the wardrobe people, and a writer that he had “looped in”. I laughed and asked if the fact that I’m kind of ugly would be a deal breaker, to which he responded by kindly saying, “I’m sure you’ll be fine”. I said that it sounded like it was going to be fun, and said that I would see him Wednesday, November 20th at 12:00.

I immediately texted my wife, our friend/director of our Community Theatre projects, and another friend who’s also a Forensic Artist. The content of all of the messages basically boil down to “holy shit, Holy Shit, HOLY SHIT!!!!!!” I couldn’t believe what had just happened, and in fact after I had had a few seconds to absorb the information, I Googled the name of producer that had called just to be 100% sure that I wasn’t being Punk’d!!

When we settled into the idea, we decided that limiting the release of the details of the opportunity might be a good idea, as the plan could very easily be scrapped. All the rest of the day, as well as the following day were consumed in the distraction of our Middle School production of “Joseph and his Technicolor Dreamcoat” and rehearsal for our upcoming production of a new children’s show “Jingle Arrgh the Way”.

On Sunday I received an email regarding some additional wardrobe details, as well as a funny statement in response to the pictures that I had sent saying that “you appear to be a lovely man”. All of Monday and Tuesday I spent gathering things I would need for the show, and trying to get things done like nothing out of the ordinary was going on. I carried on with the strike of the Joseph set, and gathered all of the parts for the next show I would have to set up the day after the shoot, all the while wondering if I could pull this whole thing off.

On Wednesday morning, I saw everybody off as usual, and then started on my journey to NYC. As the day had come without the segment being scrapped, and I was definitely going to go to NYC, I felt a bit better about letting some details out, so I posted on my Facebook page right as I was walking out the door “NYC/30 Rock…here I come!!” and left it at that.

The drive up to, and then into the city was uneventful. Between the GPS, and the studying of Google Maps I had done the previous evening, I was sure I knew where I was going, and got to the Port authority parking garage without any problems. The first problem I encountered was at the roof top of the parking garage, where I found that there was no more parking spaces, and that to leave my vehicle there, I had to use the in house Valet. I watched as other, more experienced appearing folks confidently left their cars in the possession of a stranger, and decided, mostly due to the fact that it was 11:10 that I would do the same and hope for the best.

I walked the 7 blocks to Rockefeller Place without incident, and arrived at the studio 15 minutes ahead of schedule. When the elevator opened onto the 6th floor, I was swept into a torrent of constant movement that would be my existence for the following 6 hours. Due to the fact that Jimmy Fallon is moving to an earlier time slot with the retirement of Jay Leno, his show is being taped in the new studio, while the old studio is being transformed into what Seth Meyers will taping from when he gets started on the new Late Night. There was a constant flow of foot traffic, building materials on fork lifts, and more building materials on large wheeled carts that took up almost all of the hallway when they passed. I was greeted by a wardrobe person, who asked me to have a seat in the hallway while they located the segment producer. There were five of us sitting in that part of the hallway. Two were hired to be the turkeys that would hurl themselves down the steps and then slap each other silly. The other two were hired to play the cops in the segment that I was doing the drawing for. While talking with the others I found that one of the “cops” had been on the previous weeks Saturday Night Live Blockbuster segment with Lady Ga Ga, and that one of the “Turkeys” has been in every one of the live action Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtle movies as one of the turtles.

After about an hour of wardrobe questions, and adjustments, the producer who had contacted me, arrived and explained that he would be the one supplying the descriptive information. After the turkeys vacated the tiny dressing room available to us, we sat down, he selected all the required facial features, and I set about laying out all of the details of the subjects face in a “base face”. When I showed him the base face, I could see that he wasn’t convinced I was going to be able to get it done, but I assured him that there was much work left to do, and that we hadn’t selected glasses yet. When I had sketched in the glasses details, and shaded the hair and face, he appeared way more confident that the segment was going to be ok and appeared visibly relieved. Having seen the tech rehearsal on the dressing room monitor, I realized that the drawing was going to be set in a side by side camera shot, and again only thought “holy shit”!! At that point I had been in a state of panicked drawing for about an hour, and had become visibly blotchy as a result. Normally I wouldn’t care, but today I was worried that I would look like a knucklehead on national TV, but I had forgotten about the power of makeup.

After the drawing was complete, and I had changed into the cloths that I had brought, we prepared for a dress rehearsal with Jimmy on the set. He practiced some of the other segment pieces, then he started the one that I would be appearing in. The stage manager showed me where I would be walking to and from, and then we ran the “bit” without the real drawing. They wanted to save the real reveal for the taping to get a real reaction. The smiley face that I drew in the place that the real drawing was going to be got quite a laugh. When I left the set, I sat on the side by the producer, and directors, and Jimmy hollered over to me “Chuck, don’t change the drawing now that you’ve seen Brian” to which I responded by simply saying “I won’t”.

Fortunately, I hadn’t been able to see him anyway, and wouldn’t be able to change the drawing even if I wanted to. From where I was sitting on the set, Brian, the subject of the drawing had come out onto the stage and was in profile to where I was sitting, on top of the fact that there was a camera and monitor directly between us. I literally didn’t get a close look at the producer that I had drawn until I was standing directly next to him preparing to go on set for the taping!! We all saw the big reveal together.

The taping could not have gone any smoother, and everyone was very excited by the likeness. The actors hired to come out and arrest the producer were kept a secret from all but a few of us, so it was as much fun  for us to watch as it was for viewers.

Limmy Fallon Result

Several people mentioned the look of surprise on my face when the producer that had been described came out onto the stage. The reality of that face was that it was the first time I had seen myself on the monitor and was not happy. The musical guest for the show was a man I had never heard of named Charlie Davis. Mr. Davis had an entourage of about ten or twelve people, one of whom was his cousin who was sure I was there portraying the role of the crack smoking Mayor of Toronto. When I saw myself on the monitor I saw why he thought that and laughed!!

After the taping, I left the set, watched the taping of the show in the hallway until the commercial break, and then changed and started my walk back the Port Authority Parking garage. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity for a guy like me, and a great day. It was also a day that I was able to have some fun, but at the same time demonstrate the value and effectiveness of a hand drawn composite image to a national audience. An opportunity doesn’t get any better than that!! Thanks for taking time to stop a read!!

 

Westwood Composite Imaging Training Unmatched

by Charles T. Jackson

In my last several posts I discussed some of the reasons that I limit my training to those in Law Enforcement. In this post, I’ll start discussing why you should get your training from Westwood Forensic Imaging if you are in Law Enforcement (Regardless of position ie. court clerk, dispatcher, parking enforcement, etc.), and your are interested in getting started in the field of composite imaging.

Back when I was in the Police Academy, one of our invited instructors was teaching a class on the importance of note taking, and happened to be a Composite Artist for his department. He laid some of his composites out on the back table in the class room, and talked to us about them for a few minutes at the end of the lecture evening. I stopped him before he left and asked him if he would be willing to show me how to do a composite image. I showed him several of the drawings that I had doodled in my notebook and he consented to give me a basic lesson. In the Fall of 1989, I went to meet with him at his department, and so began my training in the field of composite imaging.

After this initial training, I concentrated all my efforts into getting additional training in not only the field of composite imaging, but facial reconstruction, and age progression as well. I was very fortunate to have been trained by many pioneers in the field of Forensic Art, but my roots remained with composite imaging, and in that initial training I received locally.

When I first got started in the field of composite image making in critical cases, I had developed a process that helped me to keep my drawings in a very precise size range, (for photocopying purposes) and also assisted in gauging the balance of the image as it developed. I based this process on a guide that was taught to me in that initial training while at the academy along with improvements that I developed on my own. I introduced this process to “students” at a conference in Dallas, TX in 2005, and published it in the International Association for Identification’s Journal of Forensic Identification (JFI) in the July/August edition in 2006. All feedback from the publication was positive, and it was at this time that I was encouraged to get started training others. My process eliminates many of the concerns a new composite artist might experience, and allows them to relax and concentrate on interviewing the victim, and assembling the composite image.

Another reason to get your training with Westwood Forensic imaging is the “bang for your buck” ratio involved. In the first 40 hour training session with Westwood, you learn how to sketch out individual features while working toward a “base face”, as well as how to assemble a face from reference images. At the end of this training, participants have drawn as many as 17* full faces in one 40 hour training week. Students would have to take at least two, or as many as FIVE of Westwood Forensic Imaging’s competitors classes to match that!! Thank you very much for your interest in the field of composite imaging.

*Number of full faces depends on the ability and speed of the student artist. The lowest number of composites completed in the 40 hour Intro. Class is 11 and is still more than three times as many as a student might complete in a competitors 40 hour course work.

Encouraging the Future

by Charles T. Jackson

Well, since there’s been quite a lot of unexpected backlash on the social networks regarding my two previous posts, I though I’d do a third and address the overriding concern that I am “discouraging” those potential students that seek the training first, and then get into law enforcement after. Oddly enough, the student that inspired all of these posts said the same thing, and I addressed it thusly…I referred her to a “competitor” in the field with no law enforcement limitations. In fact I referred her to TWO other sources of composite imaging training with no law enforcement limitations.

I have made similar referrals in each case that I have come across wherein the student very much wants to get some training in the field, and due to limitations in my training, could not participate. As no good deed ever goes unpunished, one of the instructors that I referred the student to felt the need to make a Facebook post announcing how her training is available to beginning students “without limitation” and as usual, a firestorm of emotional reactions erupted that also as usual strayed into other personal attacks that could have easily been avoided if the initial reactionary post had not been made.

In the United States, there are as few as seven training sources in the field of composite imaging. I have made referrals to each of the five other main trainers since I started my training, and as one of the sources is quite new I haven’t had a chance yet. This is something that I do because I, just as much as any trainer in the field, want to encourage students to pursue their dreams as far as they possibly can. I don’t have to do this, but I do anyway because it’s the right thing to do.

Frankly, I am glad that issue came up, because there’s a simple answer to the question, as there always seems to be. Thank you again for your interest.

Practical Aspects of Limiting “Available Training” to Law Enforcement

by Charles T. Jackson

In my last post, I discussed issues with limiting my available training that were philosophical in nature. In this post I’ll cover the practical aspects, and here again you’ll find that they are based in common sense, and “Rules and Regulations” not some perception of superiority.

The first practical reason that I limit my training availability to those already in law enforcement is the fact that not just anyone can have access to a victim or witness in a crime. Now, I can see how one could take that statement alone and run with it as exclusionary, but the fact is, who ever speaks to a victim or witness for whatever reason has to be on the same page as the detectives investigating a case. If you’re dealing with a victim, it’s safe to say that almost anyone would have a good handle on the emotional aspect of handling a victim, where the line becomes more defined is when the victims behavior or situation deviates from a normal situation. Law Enforcement employees at many levels are trained to deal with situations that involve emotionally unstable persons and are at all times prepared to call on the appropriate resources to assist with a safe resolution to the problem.

Law enforcement employees will also have been trained to listen for pertinent, new and valuable information arising while involved in a simple interview, or the above emotional situation. They will know to make a note of that detail, and immediately notify the Detective working the case. THIS is where a person being in law enforcement becomes absolutely critical. When a new piece of information is developed in a composite interview, that interviewer now becomes a critical witness in the prosecution of the case when a subject is arrested. That person’s background and qualifications now become open to scrutiny. A person already in law enforcement has a “foundation of training” as well as an obligation to adhere to the policies and procedures of the organization that they represent that immediately fortifies the validity of their testimony. A person without that foundation of training and no obligation to adhere to any rules as they apply to a criminal case would become a significant “weakened link” in the case, and as a result that valuable information if presented at all, would be devalued.

The handling of evidence, whether it be an utterance of new information as outlined above, or the drawing being generated itself is also a reason that I choose to train only law enforcement employees. The importance of proper handling of evidence is hammed into law enforcement employees at all levels from the very beginning of whatever position they are in. If a drawing generated in a composite interview becomes an important element of the location of a suspect, the prosecution of that suspect will be more assured if the artist has been trained in a process that allows said artist to demonstrate how he/she arrived at the image. Notes that clearly indicate what individual reference image was used for specific features, how the chosen feature was altered if the drawn feature differs from the selected image, etc. If an artist is not able to clearly state how they arrived at that image, or they have not maintained the availability of their notes and/or the drawing itself their testimony is weakened and will most likely be eliminated as a useful option in the prosecution of the case.

The last, and possibly most important reason that I limit my training to law enforcement employees, is time. When I was a just beginning my composite imaging career, my initial composite imaging classes were mostly spent discussing aspects of all of the above mentioned concerns, and drawing individual facial features. Law enforcement students, especially the ones that already have the additional background in art, don’t need to be instructed on these topics and therefore have significant amounts of extra time to concentrate on assembling composite images. The lowest number of composite images that a student has done in my “Introduction to Composite Imaging” coursework including individual feature work, and development of a base face is almost twice as many as I did in the first TWO classes that I took.  In my initial training I completed only three composites per 40 hour training session, and that did not leave me feeling confident.

I am hoping that this will finally shed some real light on why a trainer in any of the facets of Forensic Art would want to limit his/her to coursework to law enforcement employees only. Thank you as always for your interest!!

Why Limit “Available Training” to Law Enforcement?

by Charles T. Jackson

I have recently been asked “Why do you limit your available training to law enforcement employees?” This is a question that I have been asked many many times, and with this, and subsequent posts I am hoping to both finally answer the question, and dispel the persistent assertion that the attitude is “elitist” and “exclusionary”.

The reasons, when considered, are actually pretty simple and based in common sense. When you consider any “profession” whatsoever, can you think of any that allow you to practice the act of any position, without first being an associate, or employee of that organization? I’ll use trash collection as an example. When I was five years old, I reportedly had a deep passion for assisting our local trash collection guys with the throwing of the trash into what in my young mind was the coolest vehicle ever put on the road. Every Monday I would wait for them to come up the street, I would get ready at my neighbors house and when they finally arrived, I would grab the light stuff, throw it into the truck, and then move on to our trash, and then the neighbors on the other side. After that the trash guys would kindly send me home and say that I’d have to wait until I was older to be a trash guy. I drew pictures of the trash trucks, and deeply admired the guys who did the work week in and week out. This of course was then, and is to this day a source of great entertainment to my family.  As a teenager I landed a summer job at our local Department of Public Works that let me reach that lofty goal set at so young an age. My point in all of this is no one can simply walk in off of the street, and start doing a job that is a part of any field without first becoming an employee within an organization that contains that desired field of interest.

Now of course, the argument has always been, “what about a private contractor scenario?”. In my 19 years of service in the field of composite imaging, I don’t know of anyone that has entered the field “cold” with no background what-so-ever and made a career of contract composite imaging, but having said that, if one were working under the outline of a long term “contract” it could easily be said that they were in fact “employed” by that agency.

My decision was initially based on a statement once made by one of my own trainers who expressed remorse at having taken tuition from hundreds and hundreds of students that she knew were never going to be able make career in Forensic Art regardless of their passion for the field unless they actually obtained a position somewhere in law enforcement.

While this whole philosophy could be debated, and has been debated ad-nauseum, years and years of evidence demonstrates that you can’t just take a couple of classes in anything, and then just start working in the field from the outside. So for me the decision was simple, I’ll just limit my instruction to those with the fewest hurdles to getting started in the field of composite imaging.

In my next post, I’ll discuss the practical aspects of limiting the availability of Composite Imaging training to law enforcement employees eg. insurance coverage, evidence generation/handling, and access to victims and witnesses. Thank you for your interest.