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Monday, September 24, 2001

Welcome to the eighth "Detail," a weekly e-mail newsletter that greets you every Monday morning. The purpose of the Detail is to help keep you informed of the current state of affairs in the latent print community, to provide an avenue to circulate original fingerprint-related articles, and to announce important events as they happen in our field.

We are all sort of sitting on pins and needles waiting for whatever will come next in the unfolding saga regarding the attacks on America.  However, we have been advised, and I believe we must begin to return to our "normal" course of business, whatever that may be.  This week's detail will be short and to the point, partly because I have been watching a lot of news this week and my whole heart hasn't been anywhere, and partly because this is really only the introduction to a series of Details.  

BREAKING NEWz you can UzE...

YOU MAY STILL VOLUNTEER YOUR FINGERPRINT EXPERTISE TO ASSIST IN CASUALTY IDENTIFICATION EFFORTS.  Steven Meagher of the FBI is coordinating casualty identification following the September 11 attacks.  Mr. Meagher wishes to emphasize that as of 9/14/01, no additional latent print examiners are needed, but a list is being maintained and additional volunteers would be helpful.  

To "Volunteer" normally means you have the sponsorship of your agency, or you are willing and able to take personal leave and finance your own expenses.  Naturally, response would include being available on very short notice.


We have looked at several Daubert issues, and in doing so have realized that Daubert has spawned a debate surrounding whether or not fingerprints is a science.  We have heard interviews, read articles, and we have seen several different arguments being used 'against' the science behind what we do.  However, most of these arguments are flawed, and there are many ways in which to address each individual issue to demonstrate this.  Over the next few weeks, we will be looking at some of these issues, defining them in there most basic form, and addressing whether or not they are valid arguments.

These types of issues are best dealt with in discussion, where other viewpoints may be brought in and perhaps new angles to each problem can be explored.  While I take sole responsibility for he viewpoints expressed in the Detail, they are viewpoints which are intended to spark discussion and bring about interest in these issues.  The intended purpose of the Detail is not to provide a 'soap box' to express my opinions, rather it's to spark discussion and promote understanding of pertinent issues in our field.  

Having said that, here are some of the issues we will be looking at over the next few weeks.  I encourage you to do some home work, think about and look into these issues, form some opinions on your own, so that when each issue is addressed, you feel comfortable participating in any discussions which may come about on the discussion board.  Try to think of a unique angle which may disprove the issue as it relates to fingerprints.  Come up with your own analogy which you feel best represents why the argument should or should not stand, and share it on the discussion board FOLLOWING THAT WEEK'S ISSUE!  (I know you are all chomping at the bit, but if we start talking about everything now, it will be one big mess!  Let's comprehensively cover one issue at a time.)

1.  The uniqueness of fingerprints has never been 'proven.'

2.  Fingerprint comparisons are subjective and unverifiable; no standards to prevent error.

3.  Identifying partial distorted latent prints has never been tested; isn't reliable.

4.  Fingerprints doesn't stand up to the 'real' science of DNA. (also covering statistical probabilities in fingerprint examinations)

As we explore these issues, more may come to light.  I look forward to the next few weeks and the discussions that will follow.  I will always announce what the next issue will be, so you may submit any thoughts you may have for inclusion in the Detail.  Next week we will begin with #1: that the uniqueness of fingerprints has never actually been 'proven.'  If you have a unique angle or opinion for inclusion next week, drop me an e-mail!  Otherwise, we'll see you next week in the discussion room AFTER the Detail!

This week, let's help out Nia Jones from the Forensic Science Service in London.  She is working hand in hand with the CTTSO (Combating Terrorism Technology Support Office) in researching a standardized method for the evaluation of latent fingerprint developers.  I have converted a survey she is conducting to a simple, quick form for latent print examiners to fill out online.  It can be accessed HERE.

Re-structured the consultants page to include pictures; added Ivan Futrell (Welcome, Ivan!)
Updated the Bookstore... just listed a SCARCE book; previously unavailable on my site, and currently unavailable anywhere on the internet: Sara Holt, "The Genetics of Dermal Ridges"  The first e-mail gets it!  I also listed several other books.

Feel free to pass the link to The Detail along to other examiners. This is a free service FOR latent print examiners, BY latent print examiners. There are no copyrights on The Detail, and the website is open for all to visit.

If you have not yet signed up to receive the Weekly Detail in YOUR e-mail inbox, go ahead and join the list now so you don't miss out!


Until next Monday morning, don't work too hard or too little.
Have a GREAT week!


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