Controversial AI Program Generates Photorealistic Police Sketches

AI generated police sketch

Two developers have created artificial intelligence (AI) software that generates photorealistic police sketches using DALL-E.

Forensic Sketch AIrtist was made to cut down the time it takes to create a police sketch of a suspect. It was created at a Hackathon event in December 2022 and works by inputting facial features.

“First, the artist collects a description from the witness by using our client,” explains the software developers.

“Then the client sends the description to our server where the request is parsed and sent to DALL-E’s API. After a few seconds, we have the sketch ready to be sent to the client and, in turn, to the artist.

“After that, the artist can opt to end the drawing process or to download the generated sketch and perform some small corrections to it.”

AI generated police sketch

Artur Fortunato and Filipe Renaud, two graduates from the Instituto Superior Técnico in Lisbon, Portugal, demonstrate how the application works in an online presentation.

The interface offers two tabs: “template” and “open description.” The template has all the typical features that police would ask for: Gender, age, skin color, hair, eyes, nose, beard, et cetera.

Whereas the open description works more like a typical text prompt that AI image generators use to synthesize pictures.

“The artist can also generate one, two, or four sketches at once,” the developers add.


In an interview with Vice, Jennifer Lynch, the Surveillance Litigation Director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, says that the use of AI in police forensics is “incredibly dangerous.”

“The problem with traditional forensic sketches is not that they take time to produce (which seems to be the only problem that this AI forensic sketch program is trying to solve). The problem is that any forensic sketch is already subject to human biases and the frailty of human memory,” says Lynch

“AI can’t fix those human problems, and this particular program will likely make them worse through its very design.”

Fortunato and Renaud, the developers behind the software, say they are “still trying to validate if this project would be viable to use in a real-world scenario or not.”

“Any inconsistencies created by it should be either manually or automatically (by requesting changes) corrected, and the resulting drawing is the work of the artist itself, assisted by EagleAI and the witness,” the developers tell Vice.

“The final goal of this product is to generate the most realistic drawing of a suspect, and any errors should be corrected. Furthermore, the model will most likely not produce the ideal result in just one attempt, thus requiring iterations to achieve the best result possible.”

AI image generators have already been accused of bias, for example when asked to generate pictures of a CEO it will show mainly white men. Conversely, requesting a picture of a gang member is more likely to generate images of ethnic minorities.

“If these AI-generated forensic sketches are ever released to the public, they can reinforce stereotypes and racial biases and can hamper an investigation by directing attention to people who look like the sketch instead of the actual perpetrator,” adds Lynch.

It’s not the first time that contentious new technologies have been used to generate police sketches: In October, police in Edmonton, Canada shared an image of a suspect that was generated from DNA data; it was later removed and Edmonton police apologized.