Empowering Survivors: The Power of a Pencil (Part 1)

GUMSHOE-DANNY-PITOCCO[su_dropcap style=”flat”]W[/su_dropcap]ELCOME BACK kind readers. Some of you may have noticed that; mentioned within my “bio” following every Article, is that I was a “certified” police composite artist. According to a lot of my current and past acquaintances I am “certified” to be sure!

I became a suspect composite artist back in 2003. I was working sex crimes and child abuse cases. God gave me the gift to make victims comfortable in my presence coupled with the ability to draw a human face.

Yes, I did attend a series of three 40 hour classes every two years (basic, intermediate and advanced to finally achieve my certification). It was not if I was a slow learner folks, I just had to gain more real life experience by doing as many composites as possible and whenever they were needed (rapes, robberies, aggravated assaults, child molests, shootings, homicides) – drawing males, females, children, adults, different races, age progression, age regression, various hair styles and hats and “do rags”; beards, mustaches, tattoos, marks, scars, teeth, jewelry; handicaps; glasses, etc. (whew!). These expensive as well as intensive classes put on by prior FBI composite artists do not teach you how to draw. They give you advice on tips and techniques to make you a better artist. You take it from there!

I learned by “doing”! You remember what they say about making it to Carnegie Hall, “practice, practice, practice!” Sometimes this was very challenging – multiple victims, witnesses, suspects not just one. Victims of both sexes and all age groups; victims mentally challenged; victims with little language skills and sometimes just victims who were dead.

You have to understand dear readers that pictures of unidentified victims in the morgue are never released. I just render their facial “likeness” when they were alive.

The easy part is the drawing – the hard part is the victim interview.

(Please refer to my previously listed challenges.)

In sexual assault cases I had to voluntarily gain the victim’s trust and confidence and complete cooperation. I conveyed to them to channel their outrage, shock, anger, embarrassment; fear and utter helplessness they felt into providing me with the best suspect description possible so that we would “get the son-of-a- b****!” I let them know (never referring to them as a victim) that they were a survivor who be a thriver! I would counsel them that they would take back the “control” from their attacker by the composite drawing that would “ID” him and make him run and hide and constantly be in fear of being arrested or turned-in by a relative, an “X”, a friend who would make the ID. I would tell the victim that cockroaches and rats run from the light and that the suspect composite drawing they made with me would cast a spotlight on this regenerate.

Before my retirement in 2015, I completed over 100 sketches that resulted in 20 arrests thanks not to me but the victims who were “empowered by my pencil.”

Included with my Articles to follow in this series (less words/more sketches) will be some of my “practice” sketches for your review. I will not include any of my suspect composite sketches simply because the degenerate troglodytes do not deserve any recognition! Allow me to start not by one of my sketches just yet, but the poster appearing on my (former) Office door:

Gumshoe Poster

Till next time folks love the ones who love you.


Danny Pitocco
Danny Pitocco
RETIRED (as a Detective with the Snohomish County Sherriff’s Department, Washington State), Danny has over forty years of law enforcement experience across city, county, state and federal levels of government, including service as a Special Agent for the DEA, US Department of Justice. He’s a decorated law enforcement veteran, and recipient of the "Detective of the Year" award for Snohomish County, Danny is a certified composite artist and has testified as an expert witness in the field of narcotics and modus operandi of particular crimes in state and federal courts in California, and has given testimony before federal grand juries. Danny served four years of active duty in the US Marine Corps and loves Jesus as his personal savior.

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  1. This is very interesting to me. I can’t draw a crooked line that looks like anything but an unstraight line. I love the way you work compassion into your post here – about not being a victim but being a survivor. And how you put them at ease so they could recall how the criminal looked. I have a mental thing where I don’t easily recognize people. I hope I never have to remember what an attacker looked like. I don’t think any amount of channeling would help me remember, but that is an amazing gift you have – I mean the artistry and the relational talking the person down off the roof.