Forensic procedures for facial-composite
Cristina Fodarella, Heidi Kuivaniemi-Smith, Julie Gawrylowicz and Charlie D. Frowd
Cristina Fodarella and Heidi
Kuivaniemi-Smith, both are
based at the Department of
Psychology, University of
Winchester, Winchester, UK.
Dr Julie Gawrylowicz is based
at the Department of
Psychology, Royal Holloway,
University of London,
Dr Charlie D. Frowd is based at
the Department of Psychology,
University of Winchester,
Purpose –The paper provides a detailed description of standard procedures for constructing facial
composites. These procedures are relevant to forensic practice and are contained in the technical papers of
this special issue; the purpose of this paper is also to provide an expanding reference of procedures for future
research on facial composites and facial-composite systems.
Design/methodology/approach –A detailed account is given of the interaction between practitioner and
witness for producing a facial composite. This account involves an overview of the Cognitive Interview (CI)
and the Holistic CI (H-CI) techniques used to obtain a description of the face of an offender (target); the
authors then describe how this information is used to produce a composite from five popular face-production
systems: Sketch, PRO-fit, Electronic Facial Identification Technique (E-FIT), EvoFIT and EFIT-V. An online
annex is also made available to provide procedural information for additional composite systems.
Practical implications –The work is valuable to forensic practitioners and researchers as a reference for
interviewing techniques (involving a CI or an H-CI) and using facial-composite systems.
Originality/value –The authors provide an accessible, current guide for how to administer interviewing
techniques and how to construct composites from a range of face-production systems.
Keywords Cognitive interview (CI), E-FIT, EFIT-V, EvoFIT, Facial composite, Holistic CI (H-CI), PRO-fit,
Paper type Research paper
In a police investigation, it is usual for forensic practitioners to interview witnesses and victims of
crime to construct a facial composite of an offender as soon as is practical to do so. The normal
delay (retention interval) to interview is upwards of one or two days following a crime (e.g. Frowd
et al., 2012a), and the face can be created using a number of different techniques or systems.
Research projects can follow this process in the laboratory (e.g. Frowd et al., 2005) using a
similar retention interval and with researchers experienced in the relevant system.
Sketch and “mechanical”systems were the first techniques employed to construct composites
with witnesses and victims (e.g. Davies, 1983). Sketch refers to forensic artists drawing a face by
hand. Mechanical systems such as Photofit and Identi-Kit were then introduced, enabling
less-artistically skilled practitioners to be able to create composites suitable for use in a police
investigation. With these types, witnesses could build a face by selecting facial features
(eyes, nose, mouth, hair, etc.) that are printed on transparencies or jigsaw-like pieces. For
practical and functional reasons, computer-driven systems have largely replaced the mechanical
techniques: software systems were designed with a large range of facial features, and these
features could be more-accurately sized and positioned on the face (Frowd, 2012).
There are two main types of software system, feature and holistic. With feature systems such as
PRO-fit, Electronic Facial Identification Technique (E-FIT), FACES and Identi-Kit 2,000, witnesses
recall the appearance of a target face and are shown facial features to match; they are then
asked to select the best example of each feature. For the EvoFIT and EFIT-V holistic systems,
Received 7 October 2014
Revised 18 April 2015
18 April 2015
25 July 2015
Accepted 26 July 2015
The authors would like to thank
Claire Ford, Emily Graham and
Claire Madin, all from the
Psychology Department at the
University of Winchester, along
with two anonymous reviewers,
for their insightful comments on
DOI 10.1108/JFP-10-2014-0033 VOL. 17 NO. 4 2015, pp. 259-270, © Emerald Group Publishing Limited, ISSN 2050-8794
JOURNAL OF FORENSIC PRACTICE
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