Breaking News Bar
updated: 3/27/2014 5:55 AM

Elgin sketch artist retiring after 30 years

hello
Success - Article sent! close
  • Elgin Police Department sketch artist officer Mike Gough is retiring April 4 after 30 years on the job. The sketch at left is one he made from a skull. Composites, on the other hand, are based solely on victims and witnesses' accounts.

       Elgin Police Department sketch artist officer Mike Gough is retiring April 4 after 30 years on the job. The sketch at left is one he made from a skull. Composites, on the other hand, are based solely on victims and witnesses' accounts.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Elgin Police officer Mike Gough shows one of the many sketches he's done in his years as a sketch artist.

       Elgin Police officer Mike Gough shows one of the many sketches he's done in his years as a sketch artist.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer

 
 

Mike Gough has been a patrolman in Elgin for 30 years, but he's most well-known for his work as one of few sketch artists in suburban law enforcement.

Gough, 54, is retiring April 4.

Order Reprint Print Article
 
Interested in reusing this article?
Custom reprints are a powerful and strategic way to share your article with customers, employees and prospects.
The YGS Group provides digital and printed reprint services for Daily Herald. Complete the form to the right and a reprint consultant will contact you to discuss how you can reuse this article.
Need more information about reprints? Visit our Reprints Section for more details.

Contact information ( * required )

Success - request sent close

There are two main types of drawings in his field, Gough said: Composites, or drawings based on descriptions garnered from victims and witnesses, and sketches, or drawings, based on additional material like skeletal remains and photographs.

Putting witnesses at ease is crucial to getting good information, he said.

"When they begin to relax and just breathe, they begin to recall a lot more they're aware of," he said.

Sketch artists must only listen, never guide with such leading questions as, "Were his eyes round?" he said. They also must consider the dynamics of traumatic situations, he said.

"The criminal is nervous when he's doing this, so he may have wider eyes (in the victim's mind)."

Older people are extremely detail-oriented, while facial composite software can be especially effective with children, he said.

Very few law enforcement departments in Illinois have sketch artists, Gough said. Still, computers can never fully replace them, he said.

"(The software) might have 25,000 sets of eyes in this program, and the police department says, 'We'll never need more than 25,000," he said. "And I say, 'Oh yes, you will.' I have an unlimited number of eyes in my right hand."

Gough estimated he's done 60 or more composites and sketches over time -- at times as often as twice a week -- but lately he hasn't been called to do any, he said.

"There are a lot of new detectives that haven't been calling on us (sketch artists)," he said. Also, police nowadays often are aided by surveillance footage, he added.

Over the years, he's also lent his expertise across the state. His most recent sketch was of a man found in May 2012 in the Mississippi River near Sauget, Ill.

"He did a hell of a job on the sketch," Sauget Police Det. Vito Parisi said. "We put it out to the press, but we weren't able to identify him."

Gough said he's especially proud of helping the Kane County Coroner's office with a sketch based on a man's skull found around 2010.

The man couldn't be identified through dental records, and his sketch ended up closely matching the man's ID, which was found about a mile away, he said.

Gough became a sketch artist in 1991, at the urging of Elgin's then-sketch artist who noticed Gough's talent for drawing caricatures.

Elgin now has another sketch artist, Officer Robbie Soberano, who's been doing it for about three years. Officer Andrew Stein is also training for the job, Gough said.

Last year, Gough successfully lobbied for him and Soberano to attend a weeklong training in Arizona. That was the first sketch artist training Elgin police paid for since 1991, he said.

"When we came back, we were ready to prove that their money was well spent," he said, adding Elgin should provide more such training.

Elgin Police Chief Jeff Swoboda said it isn't always easy to provide adequate training for everyone. "We have a lot of talent with in the department, so we have to remind each of what we have," he said.

Sketch artists are valuable for more than sketching, Swoboda said.

"The sketch artist can become a master at getting (victims and witnesses) to relax, talking more than (just about) the face, talking about the scene, and what they saw."

Once he retires, Gough said he'll continue sketching, if just for his own amusement.

He might even go back to drawing caricatures, which he's avoided for the last two decades years because they mess with his sketching, he said.

"My wife has seen me spend many hours (sketching) with headphones," he said.

"I take home copies of mug shots, photographs, I do interesting faces out of magazines. Just to keep working."

Share this page
Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.
    help here