Watch CBS News

NYPD Cops Learn Skills Of Observation -- In Museum Art Class

NEW YORK (CBS 2) -- Law enforcement officials are taking a field trip to the museum to sharpen their skills, and it's not your typical art class, reports CBS 2's Seth Doane.

They're never given much time to evaluate a scene.

"We were taught in the academy how to observe and how to look a little deeper than what meets the eye," Inspector Kenneth Mekeel said.

He's not talking about art academy, though, but the police academy.

"They're often wearing their weapons…in the museum, and it has become an issue for some museums," Amy Herman said.

Herman teaches "The Art of Perception," a course she designed to use fine art to sharpen her students. Those students include members of the CIA, the Secret Service, and the NYPD, all visiting New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.

"We're getting the off the streets and out of the precincts, and it refreshes their sense of inquiry," Herman said. "They're thinking, 'oh, how am I doing my job,' and it forces them to think about how they communicate, and how they see the world around them."

The class encourages the officers to describe what they see and communicate better, because pointing is not permitted.

It's not about recognizing artists or techniques, but instead fine-tuning attention to detail. Inspector Mekeel runs the NYPD Real Time Crime Lab.

"We always teach [officers to] step back, look at what you have, the crime scene, make observations," Mekeel said. "Get a whole picture in your head of all the things, you know. There's more to a picture than meets the eye."

Do the cops make good art critics?

"They're terrific. They're so smart, they're so observant, they do it everyday," Herman said. "Often, they see things that art historians don't always notice.

Or, in some cases, they may just see things a bit differently.

"The female sitting up on top actually has her hands behind her, and it almost looks like she was handcuffed," Mekeel said.

Of course, this isn't exactly the officers' usual beat.

"Oh no, it isn't, but it's getting our minds evaluating, analyzing different things, looking deep into things," Mekeel said.

Already in its fifth year, Herman credits the course with helping to solve at least a couple of cases, as detectives have combed crime scenes more carefully or reexamined evidence.

"Plus, it gives us some extra culture," Mekeel said.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.