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!!