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Monday, November 11, 2002

BREAKING NEWz you can UzE...
compiled by Jon Stimac

Prints at Attack Site Lead to Arrest of Florida Teen - PALM BEACH POST - Nov. 6, 2002 ...investigators matched a fingerprint and palm print to teen...

U.S. Wants Prints Of Muslim Visitors - WASHINGTON POST - Nov. 7, 2002 ...thousands from five Muslim countries who are temporarily residing in the US to be fingerprinted and photographed...

Lawyer: Teen's Prints on Sniper Gun - BALTIMORE SUN - Nov. 8, 2002 ...17 year-old John Lee Malvo's fingerprints were the only ones found on the rifle used in the sniper attacks...

Police Link Man to ATM Abductions During the Summer - BALTIMORE SUN - Nov. 9, 2002 ...fingerprints linked suspect to a July abduction of a walking woman...

Good morning via the "Detail," a weekly e-mail newsletter that greets latent print examiners around the globe 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.

There are a couple of latent-print related items from Joe Polski's Monthly IAI Update:

IAI Website Event Calendar – ATTN Divisions

Last month I mentioned that calendar is now available on the IAI’s website on the “Division” page.  That calendar lists the time and place of all future IAI division meetings.  At last summer’s conference in Las Vegas, during the annual breakfast for division secretaries, presidents and regional representatives, strong interest in creating such a “master calendar” was voiced.  IAI Webmaster Jim Arend has added the calendar to the site and all that’s needed is for the divisions to contact Jim with their meeting/conference information.  He’ll be glad to list it.  Please contact him directly at the following e-mail address: 

2003 Conference – Ottawa

It is not too early to begin to make plans for the 2003 Ottawa Conference.  The dates for the conference are July 6-12, 2003.  The main conference hotel is the Westin in Ottawa.  If you know you will attend, it’s not too early to make reservations at the Westin.  The rate is $169 Canadian and the phone number for reservations is (613) 560-7000.  Please remember that all prices are in Canadian dollars currently worth about $.66 cents of a US dollar.  In other words, a hotel rate of $169 Canadian is about $112 US.

If you would like to make a presentation at the conference, please contact Educational Program Planner Jim Gettemy at the following e-mail address: 

You will also find a link on the IAI’s Home Page (theiai.org) to an electronic abstract submission form.  That form can be completed on-line and submitted directly to Jim.  After submission of your abstract, Jim will get back to you with more information.

Last week, we reviewed "myth # 8" from the 10 myths of science website regarding objectivity.  This week, Steve Howard brings more on the concept of paradigms in latent print work as he expands on a recent message board post:


The Business of Paradigms

I would just like to offer a comment or two on the interesting article in this week's Detail concerning paradigms.

Not too many years ago, I had never even heard of the word before, let alone
was I able to pronounce it properly! 20c right? (a pair-a-dimes?) Since then, I have been intrigued by the concept, which really began after I saw an interesting video entitled "The Business of Paradigms". It was presented by Joel Barker, a self-proclaimed futurist. Although dated now, in it, he makes reference to Thomas Kuhn and his work and talks about paradigms in the business world and how the folks who work in a particular field can sometimes be blinded to the changes that may be occurring all around them. One example focused on the Swiss watchmakers who had been producing precision timepieces for decades and spoke of their reluctance to embrace a new idea that there might be another way to tell time. Enter Seiko and the digital revolution! Ironically Seiko had approached the Swiss watchmakers with the idea first.

There are some other excellent examples in the video as well as some neat examples of how the brain can be fooled into thinking it sees something that’s not what it appears to be. (imaginary points, anyone?) However, the theme of it fits nicely in with the suggestions made in this week's Detail article. Kasey asks how this relates to what we do. Does it or doesn’t it? My belief is that it does without doubt. We are already seeing it in Daubert. For almost a hundred years, we had been making fingerprint ident
ifications much the same way and had enjoyed presenting that evidence in court with little or no challenge. Nowadays of course, we have to not only understand the scientific process and how it is applied, but also be able to defend it and articulate it in a court of law. In a nutshell, we now have to be more accountable for what we do. That in itself, is the paradigm shift within our own profession. To quote Joel Barker, “When a paradigm shifts……everything goes back to zero”. That means we have to deal with a new way of thinking about our profession, our evidence, and the public perception of what it all means, and importantly, be competent to meet these new challenges. If we choose to ignore them, it’ll be at our own peril.

Kasey also asked what are some examples in latent prints. Well, let’s
explore this question. How often have we had a small piece of a palm print, which we just cannot identify. We may have a nice area of detail but we’ve checked every suspect from here to there and still no ident. Barring the obvious, does the average examiner automatically think footprint? Probably not. Why?, because latent footprints are simply not that common. In a way, it’s easy to see how we unknowingly can become conditioned to see what we expect to see; to interpret something believing it to be what we think it is to the exclusion of all else. After all, we have our experience to back us up don’t we? By doing this, we are insulating ourselves from other ideas that may run counter to our own. This is our own paradigm at work.

Barker also states that often the best people to evaluate a problem are those on the fringes, who are detached from any direct involvement and who are not bound by any vested interest or mandate. In a sense, they have a more objective approach to a problem, and are better suited to see the proverbial forest through the trees. They are able to view a problem or concept devoid of the mental filters that stakeholders routinely apply through their experience or expectations of that problem. So
for example, it might be quite possible for an environmentalist with an interest in engines to design a more environmentally friendly fuel-efficient engine than an automotive engineer.

In our profession, we are facing increasing calls for more testing and validation of our scientific method from judges, defence lawyers, and given the recent high profile erroneous identifications, the media and public too.
Some of those voices might argue that this all should come from a more independent source outside of our discipline. While this might be a valid point, most examiners would argue that anyone not professionally trained in our discipline simply would not be qualified to do that kind of validation testing.  Such a study would probably be written off to poor science. But could there be someone out there who is competent to undertake such a project, but who isn’t a trained examiner? (put you hand down Simon!)  Maybe, maybe not. What we do know is that our paradigm tells us there couldn’t possibly be, so we seem to automatically dismiss the idea.

Perhaps steadfast adherence to the paradigm does have its advantages, as stated in the article…. “Kuhn would argue that the blinders created by allegiance to the paradigm help keep scientists on track. His review of the history of science demonstrates that paradigms are responsible for far more successes in science than delays”. However, with the judicial system not about to subscribe to that philosophy any time soon, it is incumbent upon us all to accept that we are all back at zero and go from there.

Steve Howard


To discuss this week's Detail, visit the informal CLPEX.com message board at
http://www.clpex.com/phpBB/viewforum.php?f=2.  Also on the message board is a request from Leanne Gray of the Illinois State Police:

I work with Dave Grieve and thought that you or your weekly readers might
be able to help me out.  Since the snipers were discovered by using the INS
AFIS system, I have had numerous requests asking how many federal agencies
have AFIS systems.  I am familiar with IAFIS.  Obviously, INS has an AFIS
system.  Are you aware of any other?

Thanks in advance for any light you can shine on this topic.

M. Leanne Gray
Acting Training Coordinator - Latent Fingerprints
Rockford Forensic Science Laboratory

Visit the Detail message board to respond, or to view responses to Leanne's question.

As usual, the onin.com forum (http://onin.com/fp/wwwbd/) is also available for more formal latent print-related discussions.


UPDATES on CLPEX.com this week...

Extended the dates for the California Adobe Photoshop course from December to April to let more examiners in on the action... details will be posted on the Photoshop Training page soon.

Updated the Detail Archives

Updated the Newzroom

Feel free to pass 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.

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Until next Monday morning, don't work too hard or too little.

Have a GREAT week!