Jobs You Won't See on CSI #2: Forensic Artist-Russ Stover

CSI and its clones show some of the more typical jobs associated with modern forensics. They have a medical examiner, they have people who know blood splatter, fingerprints, fibers, tire and tool marks, ballistics, and of course the all important DNA. What you don’t see on these shows, or at least very often, are the dozens of other jobs that are just as important if not crucial to modern policing and investigations. Investigations are a team effort, whether its serial homicide or purse snatching and there are many more jobs and specialties than CSI would lead us to believe.

Education/Training: Talent and/or degree in art, sculpture, drawing, computer animation and art, anthropology, and anatomy.
Pay: variable depending on location but $40,000 plus is not unusual.

What is Forensic Art?

Forensic art encompasses a wide range of sub-disciplines. There is the sketch artist many people see on tv who takes descriptions from witnesses or cameras and draws a composite sketch of the possible suspect. Early sketch artists had the age old tools of pencils, charcoal, and paper and while still used today many also use them in conjunction with computers and powerful programs like Photoshop. Artists can even use these programs to advance the age of a person to account for time (vital when looking for missing children), change hair styles and color to show how possible disguises and even plastic surgery could alter the person's appearance. More importantly, they give police leads they may not have had otherwise.
Less well known are forensic sculptors. They take the human skull and then plot what the muscles and flesh over that skull could look like and then use clay and paint to recreate the person's face. This technique has been used to help identify John and Jane Does who still would not have a name and a family no closure about their loved one.
The crime scene diagram(er) uses paper and pen but more often computer programs to plot out and recreate the scene of a crime or car accident. They show the size and shape of the room, the furniture, and the location of the body and evidence. In car accidents they can show the type of car, its direction, speed, and road conditions as well as location of signs, other cars, etc. These recreations help police, lawyers, and juries get a cleaner picture of the scene than just verbal descriptions from witnesses and investigators. Modern programs can even prove or disprove such things as position of the sun (whether or not it could be in someone's eyes as cause of an accident) the possibility of witnesses (by gauging what buildings or houses have line-of-sight to the scene, and more.

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