Veteran sketch artist teaches officers valuable crime-solving skills

Photo: WKRN

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Composite sketches can be a valuable tool in solving cold cases or violent crimes.

They can help speed up an investigation by helping officers hone in on a suspect.

“If they’ve got a list of people they feel could be a suspect, they can immediately look at it and a lot of time will say, ‘don’t go here,’ and they can eliminate all these people,” said  Rick Parks.

Parks has been a sketch artist for 40 years. His life’s work consists of putting profiles to paper and helping solve cases.

He’s now an instructor, and law enforcement officers are his students.

One of their lessons includes learning the basic face within 2 1/2 hours. He said part of the process includes focusing on what not to do.

“The key is using a grid, which gives them facial proportions and basically teaches them what not to draw,” Parks explained.

The interview process with a witness is also crucial. Witnesses don’t speak the language of an artist, but Parks said there are ways to make sure the drawings are accurate.

For example, the artist will introduce photos showing strictly facial features. All the witness has to say is yes or no.

“What we do is have them give us all the features and we put it together in the face,” said Parks.

Before long, they have a sketch.

Phil Cicero, a special agent with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, has been the agency’s go-to guy.

“I’ve been carrying the weight of doing the sketches across the state for the TBI,” he told News 2. That’s almost 400 departments.

He sat in Parks’ most recent class. Despite his success, Cicero noted a little instruction is still helpful.

“I love the challenges they give us during the classes, to really push myself to be just that little bit better,” he said.

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