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The Art of Perception: training law enforcement specialists to see more through art

The Art of Perception: training law enforcement specialists to see more through art

Published on October 31, 2014
Washington D.C., October 29 2014

On Wednesday night, about 15 Police Attachés from European and African embassies were invited by their French counterpart, Mr. Pierre-Edouard Colliex, and the International Law Enforcement Attachés Association, to the Kreeger Museum in Washington D.C. They were greeted by the Director of the institution, Ms. Judith Greenberg. In the beautiful setting of the museum — full of incredible masterpieces by Picasso, Monet and Degas to name just a few — the Police Attachés were given a presentation on the Art of Perception by Amy Herman, a historian and lawyer. Ms. Herman has worked for a number of cultural institutions, including the Frick Collection and the Metropolitan Museum in New York City, but also trains security specialists to sharpen their observation techniques through art.

Amy Herman has been conducting The Art of Perception sessions for law enforcement agencies at the local, state, and federal levels since 2004. In the last 10 years, she’s been training security services from all over the country. The program began with the New York City Police Department, and has since expanded to many different agencies involved in investigative, prosecutorial, analytical, and intelligence work. Former participants have included members of the FBI (Surveillance, Behavioral Analysis), the CIA, the Department of Justice, the Philadelphia Police Department (Detective Bureau), and the Chicago Police Department (Detective Bureau).

The Art of Perception program is a professional development course that provides leaders in law enforcement with a different approach to their day-to-day work and new communication skills by learning to analyze masterpieces. During her presentation, Ms. Herman asked half of the Police Attachés to describe a Monet painting, while the other half of the group listened with their eyes closed. None of the participants took note of the white border on the edge of the painting and when their colleagues opened their eyes to three similar works by the French painter, only one could distinguish which painting had been described to them. In 10 years, only six people had noticed the border, three of them were Navy Seals.

The office of the French Police Attaché in the US has had a long lasting and fruitful relationship with the New York Police Department, who has called upon Ms. Herman so many times in the past to train their investigators to pay attention to the smallest detail and to think outside the box. Embedded in the NYPD — which with 50,000 members is the largest police force in the US — a French liaison officer in New York has the occasion to attend an Art of Perception seminar and was so impressed by Ms. Herman´s work that he referred her to the Police Attaché in Washington D.C. The office of the French Police Attaché now hopes that Ms. Herman´s exceptional training techniques will become known beyond the U.S. France, with its rich culture and experienced police force could be the perfect place to start.

Arnaud Baleste, deputy Police Attaché, Amy Herman, Pierre-Edouard Colliex, French Police Attaché in the US
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