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Monday, January 13, 2003

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

Lifting the Identification Protocol - SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - November 26 - 28, 2003 ...A conference to celebrate 100 years of fingerprinting in Australia.  Australian and international police and forensic practitioners are invited to attend the centenary celebration...

Fingerprint Links Sniper Suspect to Slaying
 - CHICAGO SUN-TIMES - Jan 5, 2003 ...print on a recovered street map found where one victim was killed belonged to suspect...

Prince of Prints - CHRONICLE TRIBUNE, IN - Jan. 6, 2003 ... for Andre Moenssens, fingerprints have been his obsession for more than half a century...

Employers Adopt Fingerprint Scans - THE DETROIT NEWS - Jan. 6, 2003 ...a growing number of companies are checking its employees' fingerprints -- and raising privacy concerns in the process...

Fingerprinting Kids: A Smear on Privacy? - THE HERALD NEWS, NJ - Jan. 8, 2003 ...despite misgivings civil liberties experts have about fingerprinting, most parents agree to the procedure...

Fingerprint Scanner Provides Instant Identification - BETTERHUMANS  - Jan. 10, 2003 ...wireless fingerprint scanner could soon be helping law enforcement agencies...

Fingering The Criminals - THE ENGINEER, UK - Jan. 10, 2003 ...forensic experts in Japan claim to have succeeded in developing a method for obtaining fingerprints left on human skin... (*note from the webmaster: if anyone has more information on this technique, I would love to publish details!)

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.

Dave Charlton says, "A new year... A new website... Bigger and better than ever before!"  Check out the updated site, A RIDGE TOO FAR at http://www.david.charlton97.btinternet.co.uk/

The Pacific Northwest Division IAI will be hosting a workshop on the Recovery of Fingerprints from Human Skin.  Instructed by William C. Sampson, this class has been scheduled for March 3 - 5th, 2003 in Kent, Washington.  Cost is  $250.00. For additional information, please contact Lori Moore at the King County Sheriff's Office: (206) 296-7446, Lorene.Moore@metrokc.gov

From Joe Polski's Jan2003 Monthly Update:
Fingerprint Questionnaire

AFIS Committee Survey - Request for Information

The AFIS Committee has undertaken a survey to estimate the number of latent fingerprints left at crime scenes. These latent prints could be searched electronically against a Tenprint database. There is a general feeling that many latent prints are not searched on Automated Fingerprint Identification Systems (AFIS), even though such systems are available to all law enforcement agencies.

The questionnaire is located on Ed German's ONIN website (www.onin.com) and will take only a few minutes to complete. The survey is not intended to be a scientific treatise on the number of non-searched prints. Rather, the survey will provide basic information as to the potential number of latent prints that could be searched on local, state or federal AFIS systems. This information has implications to both the law enforcement and vendor community as we face reduced budgets and increasing demands for identification services.

The results of the survey are expected to be reported at the 88th Conference in Ottawa

One last and final announcement before we get to this week's Detail: Ski needs your help!!  Here is his plea to YOU:


Here's the scoop.  I have been tasked by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) to put together a training program on digital imaging that can be presented across the United States and in Canada.  They want this program to feature a "more broad spectrum" (AKA a wide range) of disciplines, including, but not limited to digital images of blood spatter, crime scene photos (homicides, burglary, etc.), domestic violence (bite marks, bruising, etc.), explosives, guns, fingerprint, palm prints, shoe prints, mug shots, video frames, questioned documents, etc., etc., etc. 

I have been working on this program with the NIJ for several months now, and I am to the point that I need to get photos that can be used to demonstrate the many uses, features and functions of digital imaging technologies.  That's where you come in!

As you know, I have some images that I currently use in my training programs, but I do not have the depth of images that I need to make this a truly successful training program.  Therefore, I would GREATLY appreciate your assistance if you would review your files for any photos that could release to me for use in this training program.  Like I said, I am really desperate for your help!!!

If you do have any images, which I pray you do, would you please provide either:

-- a copy of the original digital image (it can be an exported MORE HITS case or it can be any other high resolution image, preferably a TIF, but copies of the original JPGs are welcome too!)

-- if it is a negative, please either scan and save the image at the highest possible resolution or, if possible, please send me the negative and I will scan it

-- if it is a photograph, please either scan and save the image at the highest possible resolution (based upon the size of the photograph) or, if possible, please send me the original photograph and I will scan it

If you are providing electronic copies of these images, please burn the images onto a CD (again, having images that are captured with the highest possible resolution is a key element here) and mail the CD or the original negatives and photographs to me at:

David Witzke
PC Pros
7402 Custer Road West, Suite 102
Lakewood, WA  98499

If you are sending negatives or photographs, I will return them immediately after they are scanned. 

If at all possible, I would like to have these items by no later than Monday, 3 February 2003 for submittal along with the lesson plan.  Of course I will always accept images even after that date!!!

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me on my electronic leash (AKA cell phone).  That number is 612-810-9857.

Once again, your assistance will be GREATLY appreciated!  And who knows, you just may receive a special gift for helping out with this program!!!!!!  

Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you!


David "Ski" Witzke
Vice President, Sales & Marketing
MORE HITS®...your complete forensic image processing solution
Direct:  1-612-810-9857
Toll Free:  1-888-849-6688
Fax:  1-253-582-6728


This week, we take a look at a new player in the "critics" arena.  The name "Dr. Ralph Norman Haber" has surfaced a few times during recent challenges.  Most of you probably remember the name from his testimony in the Plaza case, where he criticized the FBI proficiency tests, stating that the extremely high success rate raised "red flags."  He also testified that  “V” for verification in ACE-V did not accurately reflect what was truly taking place, and that “Ratification” would be a more appropriate term for a second examiner repeating the ACE process for an identification known to have already been effected by the previous examiner.  I next heard of Dr. Haber from a friend  and colleague, Jim Nursall.  Jim had a Daubert-related challenge in San Bernardino (which subsequently ended in a plea-bargain), but Dr. Haber's name appeared as a defense witness.  Naturally, Jim spent some time researching who Dr. Haber was.  The third recent appearance of Dr. Haber you may remember quite well... just last week on the 60 minutes segment. (which, by the way, if you have not heard it yet, you may listen to the 12 minute segment as an MP3 file here.)  You would most likely remember him as the elderly "scientist" gentleman with the white beard.  I think it is most appropriate to let Jim Nursall introduce you further to Dr. Haber and Haber's most recent publication.  Thank you, Jim, for bringing us this week's Detail:


Who is Ralph Norman Haber? 

Mr. Haber appeared on 60 Minutes January 5, 2003 in a story concerning the fallibility of latent fingerprint identification. He was introduced as a Forensic Scientist. During his interview with the reporter he stated that the failure rate of latent print examiners taking the IAI Certification test was 50%. He then stated that examiners taking the test are given 15 items and are allowed to make no more than 3 mistakes. Later in the story he stated that one of the reasons that judges aren’t willing to suppress latent print evidence is that the first judge to do so would be flooded with appeals by defendants convicted as a result of latent print evidence. His comment regarding the number of mistakes allowed is misleading at best, given the lack of distinction between an erroneous identification and an incorrect non-identification.  When coupled with his comment regarding the 50% failure rate, the show conveyed to the viewers that 50% of examiners taking the test make 4 or more errors. The inaccuracy of this portrayal of latent print examiner proficiency is fully realized when we look at only erroneous identifications in recent proficiency tests.  A recent Collaborative Testing Services (CTS) proficiency test data review by Ken Smith conducted for the Plaza trial reveals a true erroneous identification rate of less than one (1) percent for the entire 2001 calendar year.  Haber’s insinuation that judges would allow unreliable scientific evidence in order to avoid appeals is an insult to the integrity of judges everywhere. 

According to Dr. Haber’s website, www.humanfactorsconsultants.com, he is a highly educated psychologist and holds a Ph.D. in experimental psychology. His credentials in the field of psychology are very impressive. His wife, Lyn Haber, is also a highly educated psychologist and has earned a Ph.D. in experimental linguistics. Together, they wrote a draft entitled “Error Rates for Human Latent Fingerprint Examiners”. The draft is dated April 29, 2002 and is currently available on his website, or by following this link: http://www.humanfactorsconsultants.com/errorrates.doc . A thorough review of the draft reveals several interesting facts.

Four times in the draft, Dr. Haber states that latent print identifications have not been challenged in court until very recently. I suppose voir dire, cross-examination, discovery, and the hiring of defense experts to examine evidence are all recently developed legal tools available to defense attorneys.

Dr. Haber states that in US v. Mitchell, the defendant challenged the accuracy of fingerprint evidence. This is inaccurate. Mitchell’s attorney, Robert Epstein challenged the admissibility of fingerprint evidence based on Daubert criteria. The court ruled that the fingerprint evidence would be allowed, but the defense did have the right to have their own expert, David Stoney, challenge the identification. Stoney did not testify.

The draft devotes 3 pages to show how the legal system makes erroneous identifications undiscoverable. One example given is that an innocent defendant may plead guilty to a lesser crime, thus preventing an erroneous identification from being discovered. The draft doesn’t include Mr. Haber’s peer reviewed scientific research data, including any statistical analysis and known error rate, to support this theory. 

The draft then switches gears to point out the substantial number of court cases in which these supposedly undiscoverable identification errors have been exposed. The draft appears to use the term “undiscoverable” in a subjective manner. The Shirley McKie case is cited to demonstrate the fallibility of latent print examiners. The example states that McKie’s prints were matched to a latent print lifted from the suspects home. This is factually incorrect. Anyone familiar with the case knows that the latent print erroneous identified to McKie was lifted from a doorjamb inside the murder scene. An additional erroneous identification was made between a latent print lifted at the suspect’s home and the victim’s prints. The draft states that two American experts testified on behalf of McKie, but fails to report that hundreds of examiners from around the world have reviewed the 2 impressions and have petitioned the SCRO to admit that they have allowed 2 erroneous identifications to go uncorrected.

Lastly, the draft challenges the zero error rate for fingerprint identifications without distinguishing between the separate error rates of the methodology and the practitioner. The summary claims the data shows high error rates for examiners, yet can show no statistical data to support this. The draft itself contains more errors than have been discussed here, yet attempts to define an error rate for fingerprint examiners based on incomplete or inaccurate data. 

In closing, Dr. Haber does correctly point out that we, as humans are not infallible. He fails to recognize the fact that groups such as ASCLD, SWGFAST, and the IAI all exist to ensure that the correct methodology is taught and employed to prevent erroneous identifications. 

As professionals who adhere to these training guidelines and consensus standards, we should openly welcome challenges to the science of friction ridge skin identification with honesty, integrity, and knowledge.  From time to time, there are those who are critical of practitioners who operate in a discipline of which the critic has absolutely no working knowledge.  We must not disregard these challenges, nor should we balk at their absurdity.  In the latent print discipline, we have done an excellent job of using these attacks to become more educated and therefore better practitioners.  As long as we expose the critics for who they really are, their attacks are minimized and their shortcomings become our strongholds.  And after all is said and done, we can always point out, as Pat Wertheim did last week, what we have known for over a century: that our system works! 



To discuss this issue or other fingerprint related topics, visit the informal CLPEX.com message board at http://www.clpex.com/phpBB/viewforum.php?f=2
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...

Added a link to the audio of the recent 60 minutes special, "Fallible Fingerprints" (12 min. mp3 @ 56KbpsStereo = 4.9Mb)

Feel free to pass The Detail along to other examiners.  This is a free newsletter 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!