A police officer dubbed the "Memory Cop" is celebrating after helping to catch nearly 1,000 suspects thanks to his incredible "photographic" memory.

PCSO Andy Pope has brought more than 850 criminals to justice by using his facial recognition skills.

The 38-year-old's "gift" even enabled him to catch one robber having seen his face one year earlier, and another after recognising the mole on his face.

Fellow officers claim Pope recognised faces from CCTV footage so grainy they "wouldn't be able to pick out their own mothers".


He has built up an ability to remember faces from security film stills and police briefings and even indentified someone by the shape of their moustache.

The West Midlands Police officer of Redditch, Worcestershire, stores more faces year-on-year and averages one recognition every other shift.

Every morning he arrives at work half an hour early, logs on to his computer, and scrutinises the pictures of suspects that feature in the day's internal police briefing.

He then spends his lunch break re-examining the pictures, to refresh his memory.

In one year he identified 150 suspects - equivalent to one every other shift and many of his identifications result in successful arrests.

Pope said: "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."

His job for the force's Safer Travel Parnership entails travelling around the region on public transport, allowing him to see more people than many officers.

His frequent travel also increases his chances of encountering suspects whose images he has seen on the police computer.

To mark his success West Midlands Police challenged him to pick out five volunteers he'd not seen before on the streets of Birmingham.

He was given a few minutes to glance at pictures of them before he was filmed picking them out in the city centre.

Pope said: "This was a tough challenge I was set; right in the middle of Birmingham at the busiest time.

"It has helped to keep my mind sharp ahead of hunting the real criminals.

"It is hard to explain exactly how I remember so many faces.

"I spend time before I start a shift looking at some of the latest wanted faces and they just seem to stick in my mind.

"I feel a great sense of pride and satisfaction if I manage to remember a suspect from an image who is then arrested. Hopefully there will be many more to come in future."

The part of the brain thought to be responsible for facial recognition is the fusiform face area, in the upper part of the temporal lobe on the brain's right-hand side.

But researchers are sceptical about whether so-called "photographic memory" is a real phenomenon, saying it has never been proved under scientific conditions.

Pope said he had never been scientifically tested.

He said during his childhood and in his previous job as a shop manager, there was no special call for his recognition skills, so he had no awareness of his gift.

He added: "I thought I was just normal until Inspector Morris told me I was identifying far more people than anyone else.

"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."