Watch CBS News

Detectives Use "Art" To Solve Crime In Philadelphia

by Syma Chowdhry

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -  This may look like a typical art class – but these students aren't aspiring Picassos.

"I would never have compared art to law enforcement," said Philadelphia Police Detective Matthew Carey.

That's right!

These police detectives and crime scene investigators from all over the city are training their eyes, using art.

"Their communication skills have to be better than great.   They have to be precise," said Amy Herman, President of The Art of Perception.  "They have to be accurate.  They have to be synced, especially when they are working in emergency circumstances.  And I am giving them a different way to think about their communication skills."

Herman hosts "The Art of Perception" seminars for law enforcement officials across the country.

Herman forces her students to train their mind and eyes to focus on subtle details of art work.

A tool needed for the job, especially crime scenes.

"There are a lot of things there that you normally don't see, but the way she was teaching it, I was like 'wow,' it makes you want to pay attention more than you normally would," said Detective Glenn Welton.

"It's like I see this light bulb go on over their heads as they say, 'oh my gosh, these skills are so important to me'," said Herman.

In many exercises, students had to describe the piece of work to their partners, who then have to draw a depiction based solely on what they hear.

Most of those attending this class are newly promoted detectives ,but for some like Detective Ken Flaville who has years of experience,  the program is a bit on an eye opener.

"You get so used to going to similar scenes.  This is showing you that not everything is the same.  You really have to step back and you really have to look at it and pick up things you haven't seen before," said Flaville.

It's important for the investigators and detectives to train their eyes to notice the things right in front of them, but also to notice the things missing in the pictures, no matter how bizarre.

"It's a surrealist picture with crazy elements: a train coming out of a fireplace," said Herman.

This piece is called "Time Transfixed" by Rene MaGritte.  You may notice the train, but forget to mention missing candles in a candle stick, and there is no fire in the fireplace.

"If you had an expectation that something should have been there but it is not, it is absolutely so important for you to be able to mention it," said Herman.

"Instead of walking onto a scene and looking at the obvious, take a moment to step back and take a look at the whole picture.  Look at the whole street.  Look at the house. And really take it all in before you make an observation," said Carey.

And that talent – like art – is much appreciated.

For more information, you can click the following link: 

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.