How Police Sketches Work

Police Sketches: Cheat Sheet

Stuff You Need to Know:

  • In the 1880s, French criminologist Alphonse Bertillon painstakingly recorded the physical characteristics of Parisian prisoners, an early practice that would evolve into police sketches.
  • The FBI cites an eyewitness sketch of Timothy McVeigh as a crucial piece of evidence that eventually brought the mastermind of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing to justice.
  • An eyewitness interview is the most important step in the police sketch process. Forensic artists who create police sketches may also jog interviewees' memories by showing them mug shots of previously incarcerated criminals or celebrities with similar facial features.
  • Police sketches don't have a great track record for accuracy. According to one estimate, hand-drawn composites by trained artists are roughly 9 percent accurate in terms of producing a recognizable likeness to a suspect.

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