The concept of composite assembly systems is nothing new. SketchCop FACETTE just made it better. The first manual composite assembly system, Smith & Wesson’s Identi-Kit debuted in the mid 1950’s. Since then, others have been busy trying to create better systems using computer software. None of them have quite caught on with law enforcement officers who continually bemoan the poor image quality and lack of product support and training. None of that mattered though. Because like them or not, police must choose something when left with nothing but an eyewitness account. I knew from being a police officer myself that if investigators thought a kid with a crayon could help, they would have put him or her to work.
I believe composite assembly systems fell short was because few, if any, companies first consulted with a forensic artist before taking their product to market. The failure of these composite assembly systems left forensic artists feeling pretty confident that technology would never rival or surpass their work. I on the other hand always believed a solution was out there and I was determined to find it.
Since the day I began training as a forensic artist, I had one eye on technology. I soon figured out that it was only a matter of time before software caught up with artists. Early in my career I worked as a paid consultant for many companies trying to help them improve their software. I even used their software on real cases. While I had some success, the results were still less than satisfying. It wasn’t long before I came to the conclusion that the technology would best be driven and developed by a forensic artist.
During my journey to create a better system I was thankful to have met and trained under three veteran forensic artists who shaped my view of the discipline and influenced me to push the envelope. I will be forever grateful to them for embracing technology during a time when the field was first developing and trying to establish its place among other long-recognized forensic disciplines. Their entrepreneurial spirit remains with me to this day.
Fernando Ponce – Los Angeles Police Department
Los Angeles Police Department has had a rich history when it came to forensic art. Fernando Ponce, a classically trained painter held the job for many years before retiring in the mid 1990’s. At the height of his career he was sketching over 300 composite sketches per year. He was one of the first to routinely use color for his composite images. My first composite sketch training class was with him in 1979. Afterwards, we struck up a friendship that lasted many years. I was honored to be one of the few people invited to his retirement luncheon. He had a warm personality, a constant twinkle in his eye and called everyone, “my friend”. During one of my many visits he confided that he had been working on a computerized composite program to help officers manually construct composites using software. He wanted to build color sketches much like he did everyday with LAPD. He was such a perfectionist; he never completed the program, though he fully endorsed the growth and development of a software solution for creating composite images.
Tom Macris – San Jose Police Department
San Jose never had a composite sketch artist until they discovered Tom Macris within their ranks. Tom was trained and educated as an artist before joining the San Jose Police Department. Like Ponce, he worked in a big city that provided the opportunity to work on many high-profile cases while completing nearly 300 composite sketches per year. I spent a short amount of time with him and marveled at his talent and laid back style. Even though he retired long ago, I still believe that ’he was and remains the best in the business.’ During Tom’s career he partnered with Visatex Corportation to create a digital composite imaging software program named – Compusketch. Tom sketched the components that were converted to stippled images that were printed on a dot matrix printer. Though the images looked a little rough, the program showed great promise. But like many companies, Visatex was bought and sold several times and there were never any upgrades or improvements in the software as it faded from view.
Horace Heafner – Federal Bureau of Investigation
I met Horace in 1984 during an F.B.I. conference when the Bureau was planning their first composite imaging course at the F.B.I. Academy. He was such a gentleman and a great teacher. Horace’s career at the F.B.I. spanned over 40 years and he worked on some of the nation’s most notorious cases, including the composite sketch he completed of James Earl Ray, Dr. the convicted assassin of Martin Luther King Jr. After leaving the F.B.I. he went to work with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to help pioneer their model Age Progression program. Horace worked with facial compositing software during his career with the F.B.I. and now he was being asked to use new facial imaging software and adapt it to age progression. Though Horace was classically trained as a commercial artist, he eagerly jumped at the chance to use the software. Soon he was creating beautiful black and white pixel portraits of America’s missing children.
All three of these men worked hard to reach the pinnacle in their field. Though passionate about their work, they never took themselves too seriously and each of them had enough humility to keep an open mind about developing technology and how it could be integrated into the discipline.
Now after years of research and hard work I have brought what many are describing as ‘the best composite assembly system’ to the field of law enforcement. Police are enthusiastic and excited about it while several forensic artists have also embraced it. Sure there are still critics who scoff at the notion that a computer can produce a better image than they can with their pencil, but for those of you in law enforcement seeking a digital composite imaging solution that rivals many sketch artists, I invite you to try my software. Once you do, you’ll see why police have stopped to take notice and why forensic artists are no longer smirking. It’s because they have seen that with SketchCop FACETTE, the future of police sketching is here at SketchCop Solutions!