Facial features are
wonderful for identification. Feature proportion, and/or size is often the thing that
stands out about an individuals overall appearance. Examples of individual features
that are the major factor of the persons overall look include: Bob Hope's and Jimmy
Durantes nose, Hitlers trademark mustache, Mick Jaggers Lips, Kelsey
Grammers Forehead, etc. Any of the mentioned individuals could possibly be
identified solely on their one particular unique feature.
Not everyone has such an
obvious identification feature, but everyone has their own individual look. Try to focus
on the first thing that catches your eye about the individual. You can practice this
technique by observing people living their everyday lives. Look around you and consider
what makes a certain person look the way he or she does. You will find that it is usually
one or two features that are the dominate makeup of that individuals look.
Eyes are usually the most
and only visible feature on a suspect. Look at the suspects eyes, do not stare but
take in the uniqueness of the eyes. Consider size, shape, color, whether they are close or
far apart, perhaps they are deep-set, and consider how close the eyebrows rest above the
eyes. While observing the eyes, notice the eyebrow thickness and shape.
An individuals head
shape is another excellent identification point. Try to break the different shapes into
the following categories: round, narrow, long, triangular, square, and oval. If it helps
you to recall, use off-the-wall descriptions such as "peanut head," "bullet
head," and "pumpkin head." The same method is utilized for all features -
the nose, lips, ears, chin, forehead, and cheekbones. Look for peculiarities on the
individuals hairstyle, whether or not facial hair is present. Look for anything that
causes the individual to standout. Perhaps there is a scar, mole, freckle, or tattoo which
catches your eye. Maybe the suspect has acne scarring, or a matted or oily complexion.
Do not limit yourself to
facial features, often times there is no way to see the individuals face. Take
advantage of the chance to observe physical peculiarities, clothing, whether the suspect
limps, whether or not he or she slumps while standing, how he or she runs or walks, his or
her mannerisms, and if possible listen, the voice may also be an identification point. Any
of these things may be the information the investigator needs to lead to the
identity of the suspect.
Remember, it may only take
one of these features to result in an identification. The investigator, in turn, has the
ability to eliminate suspects through obvious appearance discrepancies.
As a Forensic Artist, I am
constantly observing people. These are questions asked by the artist when conducting a
composite sketch interview. Practicing the above observation techniques allows for a
flowing interview and an increased chance of the interview resulting in a likeness
of the suspect.