During the law enforcement child sexual assault investigation into a potentially criminal act, the interview of the child should present which phase of a crime the investigator has reached. As YoungJae Lee, 2016 in his article on Reasonable Doubt and Morale Elements stated, “In order to convict a person of a crime, every element of the crime with which he is charged must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.”
There may be times when both the law enforcement CSA investigator and the child victim may become confused about the specific elements if in fact a crime was committed, therefore an arrest of the perpetrator is warranted. No matter how educated, trained, and experienced a law enforcement CSA investigator maybe, about which elements have to exist to advocate an arrest warrant against a specific perpetrator, there may be a need for a closer evaluation, examination, and critical analysis prior to making that arrest.
Some of the law enforcement CSA investigators have their individual nuances and subtleties of how they understand and have come to the belief that a child was sexually assaulted.
What may be apparent to one law enforcement CSA investigator may not be apparent to another. In identifying that the child or witness may have or does not have the characteristics of prosopagnosia is something that the CSA investigator must understand. Bringing forth to others that the child or witness has the distinguishing traits that there may be elements of the crime that maybe difficult to understand.
At the initial investigation stages of a child sexual assault investigation, the investigator may not become aware that there is a problem with the child or adult that either or both may have prosopagnosia.
If the investigator is capable of identifying that the child or witness has prosopagnosia, he must cease the interview and find the support that in deed his observations under the prosopagnosia signs and characteristics are correct. Further, he should be capable of explaining to those he is working with that his observations and beliefs are based on concrete research and common criteria within the interview process. Individuals who have prosopagnosia will demonstrate that their memory of the event has an aspect of confusion and absence, which will leave law enforcement CSA investigators perplexed with no resolution insight.
So what is occurring in the interviews of those who have been identified in having facial blindness? When it comes down to these perplexing incidents, it may not be simply that the investigator is missing something. Science has shown that there indeed are aspects of psychology that have been overlooked with regards to criminal investigations. One of the most outstanding and significant impairments commonly unrecognized in the criminal justice world is prosopagnosia – a form of visual agnosia where people cannot recognize the faces of others. And this is not a simple inability to recognize others; it is the total loss of cohesive memory when it comes to faces of people from family members to newly met strangers.
Before delving further into the study of facial recognition and the lack thereof for those who suffer from Prosopagnosia, the importance of this study to law enforcement CSA investigations must be detailed.
When conducting an investigation, it is an essential step for law enforcement CSA investigators to recognize such impairments a person may be suffering from. In recognition of impairment, there are three levels that law enforcement must investigate.
Law enforcement CSA investigator’s Understanding Prosopagnosia
The first tier is “Clear recognition” – such examples may be a mental disability where symptoms are observed by the eye, intoxication, or a physical wound that has caused trauma. Impairment at this level is recognized by most in the social structure we live in. By simple observation, most people will be able to identify such impairments.
The second tier is “Trained recognition” – such examples are when a mental disability can only be picked upon by interviewing or wounds that are causing a deep level of stress someone who is not trained would not recognize as an impairment to memory. Trained recognition is the level law enforcement CSA investigators should be at. While this does not mandate law enforcement is a trained doctor, they should be trained enough to perceive when an oddity beyond the surface is affecting an investigation.
The third tier is “Scientific recognition”, and is the tier being discussed herein. Prosopagnosia lies within this tier due to its largely curious nature in the scientific community. This is a tier constantly being added to as psychologists and law enforcement work together to identify how specifically impairments affect their jobs. New theories are constantly being sought after and discussed inside of the scientific world. Thus, law enforcement officers should attain to be at this tier. No one will reach this tier due to the fact it is constantly changing, but staying aware of what psychologists are uncovering will aid in the competency of the detective.
Understanding these tiers, and the concepts that go into each, is significant for law enforcement as the quintessential duty is to recognize and know how to deal with impairments in an investigation process. How do studies pertain to law enforcement? Where do studies show that law enforcement needs to evolve? Are these studies completed effectively? These are all factors when it comes to a scientific study that law enforcement must come to recognize and know how to work with. Prosopagnosia is one of these evolving fields of study that law enforcement must be involved in so that the problem can be first recognized, and then best practices are adopted to work with this unique inhibition.
Everyone has memory problems at some time or another, whether it is admitted or not. However, facial recognition is something that many are good at. Recalling the expression of loved ones opening the perfect Christmas Gift, or the expression of those at a big sports celebration as the winning touchdown is thrown are expressions and faces one can recall with ease. While recollection of these faces is easier to draw upon due to the mental connection with a major event, for some recalling these faces are impossible. Even recalling the faces of those you see every day is impossible. This is Prosopagnosia, also known as facial blindness.
Prosopagnosia is an inhibition buried underneath mounds of paperwork on the psychologist’s desk. For many years it was thought to be a rare condition, one that did not need serious study. Therefore, it was reserved for specialist circles. It took years from the original findings in 1947 to give significant research to this peculiar occurrence.
Joachim Bodamer’s Findings
Prosopagnosia was separated from the more commonly identified impairment of facial recognition by German neurologist Joachim Bodamer in 1947. Bodmer’s findings were ground breaking for it gave rise to the symptoms of constant inability to recognize faces of those around them with the addition of the reliance upon such features as gait, audible recognition, or hair recognition. Bodamer compiled these symptoms and discovered the unique symptoms that make up Prosopagnosia.
However, as important as Bodamer’s studies were, they side tracked the causation of Prosopagnosia as being caused by a severe neurological change. Studies were isolated to those who had suffered trauma to the brain from either a severe collision, bullet, or another wound. Overwhelming sentiment among researchers was that memory loss of this nature was only brought about by a strong physical change.
In 2004 the Institute for Human Genetics in Germany set out to find exactly how many people suffer from the strange facial recognition loss that is Prosopagnosia. Among experts there, doubt existed that this was a problem only brought on by physical change. Their findings were startling, discovering Prosopagnosia exists among nearly two percent of the general population. This study was held up by specialized Prosopagnosia Research Centers at Dartmouth College, Harvard University, and University College London. In fact, Garga Chatterjee, a researcher at the University of Harvard, concluded that one in fifty, or 2.5 percent, of the general population, may suffer from Prosopagnosia.
One of the most intriguing aspects of Prosopagnosia is the uniqueness of the impairment in each. The impairment does not affect everyone, in the same way, another factor making it hard to recognize in society. In other words, the severity changes the landscape. The severity is often recognized upon recognition of the following problems: difficulty following television or books plots, difficulty recognizing faces of acquaintances, difficulty making friends, or putting heavy emphasis on clothes and hair as a means of recognition. This can be further broken down into apperceptive, associative, or developmental.
Apperceptive prosopagnosia is the most debilitating format of prosopagnosia. A total lack of ability to recognize the faces of those around exists, no differential recognition can be made. However, those with the apperceptive format rely upon clothing, hair, or audible recognition. Law enforcement CSA investigators must receive training and education in the associative prosopagnosia area as in their sexual assault case the investigators need to know to what degree the child or witness has been affected and may cause false identification.
Associative prosopagnosia can tell the difference between faces and recognize different traits in those faces, however, cannot recall the name or information of that person. This phenomenon suggests that it is the right anterior temporal regions that miss contextual memories linked with faces, thus attributing to the missing link between faces and information.
Developmental prosopagnosia is the onset of prosopagnosia from birth and can take the form of apperceptive or associative. While developmental can be dealt with, it is very challenging to recognize and deal with at a young age. This is due to the lack of recognition of the disease and the inability to form normal childhood memories.
Evolving Findings with Relation to Law Enforcement
Prosopagnosia in a wideset formation is intriguing for the law enforcement field. Due to the lack of acknowledgment in the psychological circle, many officers may have failed to recognize this as a problem while interviewing or conducting a CSA investigation. Immediately, this stands out as a lesson:
To no longer let a lack of knowledge lead to a failure in creating an alternative hypothesis. Law enforcement must be seeking to learn constantly in all facets of witness and police relations.
The effects of prosopagnosia must be recognized by law enforcement CSA investigators and then investigated with the proper training and education. A suggested protocol for dealing with such incidents would be to recognize these developing problems and then moving to a progression of discovering if they are in fact true. The first hint for law enforcement CSA investigators would be the reliance upon clothes, hair, or voice to recall someone during an interview, yet, a missing link to recalling facial details. A lack of knowledge regarding faces often is a sign that someone may have prosopagnosia.
Upon this suspension, law enforcement CSA investigators must add prosopagnosia as an alternative hypothesis to why recollection is confusing. Should the case appear to be severe, it may be appropriate to inquire to the witness if they have prosopagnosia. However, if the case is not severe and it is only an alternative hypothesis, asking some questions may upset the interview subject and destroy the structured rapport of the interview.
Thus, the interviewer may proceed to inquire about several faces in the interview room, from family members to others involved in the case. (Using direct photos of those pertaining to the case may be controversial as it could add to leading the subject.) Using photos of family members will provide additional hints at how efficient the interview subjects are at cognitively able to connect details and faces.
If it can be confirmed beyond a reasonable doubt that a subject has prosopagnosia, the reliability of the interview subject must be drawn into questioned as either weakened or strengthened in the veracity of their testimony. The weakened state of facial recognition could lead to a strong desire to make up specific details in order to hide the embarrassment of the impairment.
However, further research should be drawn upon if those with prosopagnosia can better identify those involved in a crime due to their trained ability in using voice or clothes in everyday life for recognition. The investigator must be component to recognize the differences in prosopagnosia in case subjects so that the many alternative hypotheses can be explored.
Where we Should Go with Research
Research into prosopagnosia must be addressed and involved by law enforcement. The criminal justice system must address these issues specifically, with abiding attention so that more cases can be efficiently investigated.
Of the first area that must be addressed is the previously mentioned ability of those with prosopagnosia to better recognize clothes and voices, and thus be more reliable witnesses due to those trained details. Studies should be conducted that evaluate a comparison of ability to draw upon gait, clothes, and voices between those with prosopagnosia and those without. This information would give law enforcement statistics to judge whether those with prosopagnosia can be either trusted as witnesses, or if their judgment must be entirely thrown at.
Another study area must be with children. Children and prosopagnosia is a neglected area of study due to the lack of studying developmental prosopagnosia. The inability to recognize developmental problems has limited studies in children. Thus the effects are largely unknown besides the inability to develop strong social relations at a young age. Further research in this area can help both clinical psychologist and law enforcement address helping young children with facial blindness and help these professionals take a route to developing a structured protocol for efficient diagnosis.
More studying must be addressed, researched, focused, understood and training for law enforcement CSA investigators on prosopagnosia in the clinical area that can conversely help law enforcement develop diagnosis and protocol for case subjects. Researchers must develop an understanding of all the functional abilities that prosopagnosia affect and develop a deep understanding of what is developmentally hurt. Are areas of ability such as navigation, understanding visual displays, or recalling buildings also hurt? An interesting area of study, particularly with children, is understanding whether or not there are any ways to overcome and heal prosopagnosia. This area would be out of the area the responsibility area of law enforcement as this isn’t an aspect of their process, protocol, etc. Finally, researchers need to pinpoint exactly how common of an impairment this is in society. Although research has been conducted in this area by professionals, mentioned above, more reliable research into the degree and severity of prosopagnosia must be carried out to pin point how deeply society is affected. All these research areas can be unilaterally used by law enforcement in order to efficiently develop facial blindness protocol.
I would like to close with two personal stories that give rise to the important recognition of prosopagnosia and my most intriguing research statement: can prosopagnosia effect people on a short term basis?
In 1980 I was working reactive patrol unit by a camping center. A suspect was in the area, and I was on foot. With a tear of speed, the suspect came out of the center and began the delicate process of trying to escape a tight parking lot. I attempted to pursue on foot, but in reality, I had no chance without being in a car. In the process of his insane escape, the suspect had managed to attach a camper to his car and tear it out with him. I was at a loss for words at the stupidity of the criminal, but also his ability to not wreck. Furthermore, it had stuck in my memory that the criminal belonged in the Beach Boys band. However, after seeing a montage of suspects presented by a detective, I could not identify the suspect. Years later, upon researching prosopagnosia, the question of short-term effect came into my mind. Was my lack of memory a true lack of memory, or was it short term prosopagnosia?
My closing story does not involve miss remembering a face, rather, shows the significance of recognizing the possibility that prosopagnosia might be common among society. Only four months ago I was at the Safeway in the city of Kent when three young hooligans appeared. They were dressed in light blue windbreakers and hoodies and armed with guns. My regular Safeway trip turned into an armed robbery throw down when one of the perpetrators approached me with a revolver. Whipping into action – possibly due to my instinctual police training – I struck the man’s hand with my sturdy cane, causing him to drop the gun in pain.
As the scene turned into chaos, the robbery was breaking down, and all three fled. Despite others joining in pursuit they escaped, never to be seen again. Despite the severity of their crime, and how deadly it could have turned, I never have received word from the police regarding recognition of these criminals. I do not expect to receive a request now, but I draw upon this as my final statement to call law enforcement into action. It is time for law enforcement to recognize when problems may exist, and act quickly to acquire facial recognition patterns or problems. Too much time has slipped by for me to recall efficiently in this case (once again, does facial blindness set in on occasion after a certain period) but it may not for you. Get to the truth, and get there with efficient speed.