Andy Pope, a Police Community Support Officer for West Midlands Police, in the UK, has come to be known as memory cop, thanks to his incredible photographic memory, which has helped him successfully identify over 850 suspects in the last four years.
Every day, PCSO Pope arrives at work half an hour early, logs on to his computer, and browses the pictures of suspects in the day's internal police briefing. He has been doing it even since he joined the West Midlands Police, in 2008, and as his brain stores more faces year-on-year, his record of recognizing bad guys keeps getting better. His exceptional identification skills have made him somewhat of a secret weapon, and when detectives exhaust all other possible options trying to put a name to a suspect's face, they turn to him.
Inspector Gareth Morris, Pope's chief officer, remembers that only two days after joining the West Midlands Police, "memory cop" came to him with a photo saying he knew who the robbery suspect was.
"I told him I would struggle to pick out my own mother in a picture like that. One and a half hours later Andy had stopped the guy in the city centre and the suspect had admitted being present at the scene."
But he was only getting started. In the last four years, PCSO Pope has been able to identify over 850 suspects, averaging about one recognition every other shift.
"If you look at a picture enough times, there is usually something that sticks in the mind as distinctive. Maybe I can't pinpoint what that something is at the time, but when I see the person in the flesh, it triggers that recognition," Pope says.
That's what happened in March of 2011, when a simple glance at a computer screen was enough for him to recognize an offender. Detectives had been analyzing the footage for hours, but he just saw the suspect's distinctive bum fluff and knew he had seen the guy before. He once identified a robber whose photo he had looked at a year before, and another from a grainy CCTV video, by a tiny mole on his face.
PCSO Andy Pope first attracted the attention of the media in 2012, when he was already hailed as a phenomenon, after identifying about 250 suspects, some of which he had brought in himself after recognizing them on the street. But according to a recent ITV report, Pope's record has improved substantially in the last four years - 850 successful recognitions.
"I thought I was just normal until Inspector Morris told me I was identifying far more people than anyone else," Pope told The Telegraph in 2012. "I don't know whether I have a photographic memory. My wife has to deal with things like birthdays and anniversaries. When it comes to remembering dates, I'm useless."