The art of being a good witness


Photo by Karen Zautyk Nutley Dets. Robert McDermott (l.) and Anthony Montanari discuss witness identification with Junior Police cadets.


By Karen Zautyk

The John Walker Middle School on Franklin Ave. was the scene of an intriguing experiment last week — an experiment and a lesson in observation. Specifially, witness identification.
Det. Anthony Montanari, who is in charge of the Nutley Junior Police Academy, had invited Det. Anthony Preite of the Lyndhurst Police Department to the June 14 meeting of the young cadets, students in grades 6-9 from schools throughout this township. And what prompted the invitation was a Preite drawing that had appeared in The Observer a few weeks ago.
The Lyndhurst officer is a skilled, and officially accredited, police sketch artist, trained in the art (literally) of creating composite likenesses of suspects, drawn (literally) from descriptions provided by witnesses to crimes. This paper had published one of his sketches, and Montanari knew that the cadets could learn much from Preite.
At the start of the session, another Nutley detective, Robert McDermott, was briefly brought into the classroom, and the kids were told to take a good look, to commit to memory as much as they could about his appearance. His facial features, complexion (dark? light? olive?), height, weight, build, etc. (Witnesses are also usually asked to focus on hair: Not only color, but length and texture and style. Except the guest had a shaved head.)

To read the full story, see this week’s issue of The Observer.

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