Aiming to use their drawing skills for crime detection, 10 police personnel took lessons on preparing sketches of suspects, during a five-day course at the Portrait Building Section, a specialised wing launched by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the Maharashtra Police.
Director General of Police Subodh Jaiswal had inaugurated the Portrait Building Section on July 6, on the premises of state CID headquarters in Pune.
The same day, a five-day basic training course was started in which 10 police personnel, all attached to the CID, started undergoing training in portrait drawing under Professor Dr Girish Charwad, who holds a PhD in ‘Contribution of Sketching in Crime Investigation’.
Charwad has been preparing sketches of suspects for the police department for the past 27 years. He has designed the five-day course, which will be followed with advanced courses of 10, 15 and 25 days.
On completing the advanced portrait making courses, police personnel will be given certificates by the Savitribai Phule Pune University. Siddharth Jabde, Vice Chancellor of Vishwakarma University, has consented to provide the ‘Virtual Reality Technique’ for the portrait making course, said CID officials.
“At least 40-50 officers have shown willingness to undergo this training in portrait drawing. But in the backdrop of the Covid-19 outbreak, 10 trainees from CID were selected for the first five-day basic training course that concluded today,” said Deputy Superintendent of Police Anuja Deshmane.
Police Inspector Sarika Ubale, who completed the basic course, said, “In school days, I had passed the elementary and intermediate drawing exam. I thought I could use my drawing skills for crime investigation and so I volunteered for the portrait drawing course.”
“I love drawing as a hobby. Training in portrait drawing will help me in crime investigation,” said Police Inspector Amol Gawali.
Charwad said, “Preparing sketches of suspects based on descriptions given by eyewitnesses is an art. Police officers would be trained considering that in portrait drawing for the purpose of crime investigation, one should not only have good drawing skills or face recognition technology, but also there are other factors like observations at crime scenes, interaction with witnesses…psychological aspects are also involved. Suppose we have to draw a sketch of suspects on description given by a rape victim or a minor who has been exploited…Many times, a witness gets confused even when asked to identify the facial features using software. So, a lot depends on how the artist interacts with the witnesses.”
While doing his PhD, Charwad found that foreign countries have a concept of ‘Cop Artist’, which includes police personnel trained in the art of making portraits and they play an important role in investigating crimes. “We do not have such a concept in India. This is the first time a police agency has started such a course for police officers,” he said.
According to the CID, drawing a portrait of an accused absconding for 10 to 15 years, imagining his or her present condition, identifying accused absconding after committing a crime, identifying an unknown and decomposed body, identifying suspects found in blurred CCTV footage with the use of portrait, are among the tasks that pose major challenges in police investigation.
“Even though technology is used, human intution plays an important role in making portraits. The number of serious crimes is huge and expert sketch artists are very few. We have a police force of at least 2.25 lakh, among whom there are personnel with such talents – if given training in portait making, they would be of great help in solving crimes. For this purpose, we have started the Portrait Building Section and CID has submitted a proposal to the government for developing it. This is the first-of-its-kind activity by any state police agency. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) has such a wing,” said Atulchandra Kulkarni, state CID chief.
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