Police sketch artists who draw a suspect’s face based on a witness’ description are known as forensic artists. Their importance goes far beyond the ability to produce an accurate sketch.
More often than not, people will be able to describe the perpetrator of a crime they have just witnessed. A forensic artist will reproduce a likeness of the culprit based on those descriptions. This sketch will serve as a useful tool for tracking down suspects and a guide to officers on the case.
With current technological advancements, the job of a forensic artist has become much more sophisticated. Using scientific findings on how several factors affect an individual’s appearance, forensic artists predict what a culprit would look like years into the investigation. They can also reconstruct the appearance of a disfigured victim based on bone structure and other available remains. Because of this, forensic artists play a powerful role in body identification.
To become a forensic artist, formal art training is recommended. Many employers prefer candidates with training in forensic art, anatomy or medical illustration. Some institutions, including the FBI, offer forensic art courses.
Forensic artists must have good communication skills and an ability to deal with panicked victims or witnesses. They must be able to capture witnesses’ descriptions in their reproductions. Forensic artists are expected to be available to work day and night.
Forensic artists can earn anywhere from $32,000 to $65,000 a year as an employee.
Thanks to modern technology, forensic artists are becoming more and more helpful to crime scene investigation. The demand for forensic artists should continue to rise steadily for years to come. Unfortunately, many law enforcement agencies have limited budgets so this demand may not translate into an increase in open positions.