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Monday, March 17, 2003

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

Fingerprints Weren't a Match - KPLC-TV, LA - March 13, 2003 ...unidentified fingerprints that were found in Elizabeth Smart's bedroom never ended up helping investigators find out who kidnapped her...

New Identity Device can Determine if Suspects Give Police Phony Names - THE DAILY TELEGRAM  - March 10, 2003 ...law enforcement will be able to check within three minutes if you’re who you say you are...

Fingerprinting System Works - THE GREEN BAY PRESS-GAZETTE - March 12, 2003 ... Green Bay Police Department said its new fingerprinting system has proven successful...

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.

What a couple of week's it has been in the UK!  From teaching the Ridgeology Science Workshop to the Fingerprint Society conference, to teaching RSW again, and then on to Paris for a quick look around.  I'm just happy to be headed back the the US to catch up on some sleep!  But I had an absolutely awesome time.  The courses went well... the Fingerprint Society in combination with the Leicestershire police sponsored the workshops, and the 'top student' for each course received a nice prize from the Fingerprint Society.  Congratulations to Bob and Tom!

Dave Charlton wanted to tell you about the trip to Paris, so here is what we wrote on the plane back to England:

An Englishman and an American in Paris

Needing a break from the norm after a busy fortnight of teaching and having attended the National Fingerprint Society lectures, it really was time to kick back, enjoy the sunshine, and engage in a little entauante cordial.

Catching the cheapest flight that could be found, Kasey and I headed for Paris for two days of walking, sight-seeing, a little socializing… and that’s about it. Except that our inexpensive internet-booked hotel happened to be in the district named in our pocket guide as the ‘romantic’ district. The word ‘romantic’ could be replaced with the words ‘distinctly red light’ and the meaning would perhaps be far more accurate.

Upon arriving at the airport, we caught a train in to central Paris, complete with full accordion-playing reception. Having checked into the hotel, we proceeded to hit the town, and upon discovering the vegas-like rows of neon and flashing red, we decided to turn in early and hit the town full force in the morning.

What a full day Saturday turned out to be! We had already walked 3 miles, taken in the National Monument Park, the Arch De Triumph, and it was still only 10:00 when we reached the Eiffel Tower. Typical American tourist! (ha ha)

I decided to wear my shorts because I was determined to enjoy the spring sunshine, but Kasey had on jeans and a sweater and was proved correct when we reached the top level of the Tower. It must have been 20 degrees cooler than the mid 50’s (F) on the ground, but still Kasey was even more happy to sample chocolate and crème crepe and enjoy some REAL coffee.

After the Eiffel Tower, we proceeded to cruise Paris by river, taking in such sights as Louvre (which we would soon see from inside as well), Notre Dame, the Palace De Justice, and the National Assembly. After discussing current political affairs, we decided as an American and an Englishman in France, it was important to engage in some high-level diplomacy, so we made our way directly to the front gates of the National Assembly.

As the photographs (to be posted soon) show, the opportunity was taken to present a diplomatic package in the hopes of engaging the support of the French government in any upcoming military action. Although unsure how much influence the gentleman would be able to exercise, we were met with warm but bemused politeness, and we are cautiously optimistic. (that he will remember us in future, anyway)

The Louvre was probably the height of the visit for Kasey. And as I had never been there myself, I also found it quite an experience. It was interesting that they insisted on no suitcases to be taken into the galleries. Did they think we were just going to take the Mona Lisa home with us? That said, Kasey had bought half of the art out of the street vendors before we had arrived there, and it was briefly discussed whether or not the museum staff would react favorably to a quick switch of the Eifel Tower-bearing canvas in his pocket with the Mona Lisa. We spent quite a few hours trying to take in paintings, 17th and 18th century objects of art, but when we entered Napoleon’s Apartments, we both agreed it probably wouldn’t get much better than that, so we decided to say our farewells’ to the Louvre.

After all that culture, we decided to treat ourselves to a relaxing evening watching the world go by on the street. We asked for a large beer, and that is exactly what we got! I don’t think Kasey had ever seen a two-pint stein before, and the e25 bar tab for two beers really hurt. But that’s Paris for you.

The next morning was spent scouring the Paris flea markets for unusual finds. Kasey’s find was certainly unusual… a real French chandelier! Yes, that’s right… to take back to America. I am sure his wife will be very pleased, but I don’t know what was funnier… riding the Paris Metro, eating at McDonalds, or walking around downtown Paris with his prize possession. 

We found a box for the chandelier, gathered our luggage, and headed home with many great memories of an excellent adventure seeing what there was to see in Paris. We may not have been successful in negotiations with the French government… but at least we can say we had fun trying. 


Last week, we talked about a few issues relating to probabilistic opinions, and we have had a few conversations going on the message board.  This week, we take a look at the newest fingerprint book on the market.  The review was published in the March 1 edition of the Guardian:

The Imprint of the Raj
The Colonial Origin of Fingerprinting and It's Voyage to Britain
by Chandak Sengoopta
224pp, Macmillan

In August 1897, a murder that would make criminal history took place on a remote farmstead. The victim, a much-hated overseer, was found in his bedroom next to an open safe from which a large sum of money was missing. Police soon discovered that there were many suspects with excellent motives, but they had only one clue: an almanac covered in blood-stained fingerprints. One of these proved to be the thumbprint of a cook who had been sacked by the overseer. The subsequent trial was the first ever to hear fingerprint evidence and perhaps it was the sheer novelty that saved the cook's neck - he was found guilty of theft, but not murder. This landmark case took place not in London, but Bengal, and the victim was a tea planter named Hriday Nath Ghosh. 

Four years later the first murder conviction on fingerprint evidence came - in Mathura, northern India. Meanwhile, the Metropolitan police were struggling with a clumsy French system that required measuring, among other things, the length of the left middle finger. The colony had stolen a march on the home country, and in unravelling this simple fact Chandak Sengoopta has discovered an absorbing tale of scientific criminology. If that were all, the historian would have done a worthwhile job: he writes with unadorned ease, he balances each argument, his research is impeccable. But this book contains much more, at its deepest level touching on issues of freedom and oppression, and of how science, good or bad, will shackle itself to either cause. 

In the 19th century a belief in the career criminal was backed up by the scientific thinking of the time. Criminal traits were held to be hereditary; therefore if all the recidivists could be identified and rounded up, the larger part of the problem would be solved. Against this, however, was set the traditional English preference for being anonymous, unobserved by government or its agents. Any new method of individual identification had a mountain of suspicion to climb, and fingerprinting was no exception: one learned counsel described it in court as "a dubious French import incompatible with British justice". 

Elsewhere in the Pax Britannica, however, such reservations were easily put aside. Indians, and especially Bengalis, were held to be notoriously deceitful in matters of identity, prone to perjury in court and impersonation outside. Classification and identification were imperial priorities. 

Caste was the first aspect of India that offered the Raj a chance to begin this work, and just as the British measured the land and its features, they began measuring its peoples. Noses were a particular obsession, ears were considered, the cranium had its proponents, eyes attracted interest. But it was a magistrate working in a backwater village in Bengal who hit on the fingerprint as the perfect identifying mark. 

One day in 1858, fearing that a Bengali contractor might break a road-building contract, William Herschel had the man place his palm-print on the document. There was already a Bengali system of using prints as signatures, but Herschel seems to have been the first to realise that each print was unique and unchanging. Soon his print system was proving valuable in settling contractual disputes. 

Some of his contemporaries may have been racist imperialists, but Herschel emerges in these pages as heroically untainted: his love of justice and fair play rose above race. During the indigo riots of the 1860s, the so-called blue mutiny, he courted unpopularity with the planters, his own countrymen, by remaining impartial. After Herschel's retirement, however, his invention fell largely into disuse until an industrious young officer named Edward Henry spotted its potential for criminal detection. 

Henry had been appointed inspector general of Bengal police in 1891 and was soon convinced that fingerprinting was the answer to identification problems, if only a workable system of classification could be found. Whether Henry discovered that system, or one of two Indian assistants, is a question that is not resolved here. Sengoopta lets him off with a caution: "Henry was probably not as appreciative of his two Indian assistants as they may have deserved." Henry introduced the system in Bengal in 1897 and, four years later, in London - as the newly appointed assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan police. 

No one could doubt the importance of a detection tool that brought guilty criminals to justice. In 1905 the Stratton brothers were convicted on fingerprint evidence of the murder of an elderly couple in Deptford. Other convictions, and hangings, soon followed. But if Herschel had shown what a scientific tool could do in the hands of a good man, there were those who would show the opposite. In Bombay certain moneylenders learned how to fake fingerprints on legal documents. At the same time in Britain, a rising fear of Jewish and German infiltrators led to new laws tightening up on aliens. Fingerprinting was brought in for those who had expulsion orders against them. Henry himself had organised the fingerprinting of coloured workers in South Africa - an imposition which Gandhi denounced for reducing all Asiatics to criminals. The association of fingerprinting with criminality had allowed it to become a means of labelling and oppression. 

Here Sengoopta has done a great service in pointing out the direct lineage between laws such as the 1906 Aliens Act and more recent ones. The Asylum and Immigration Appeals Act of 1993 requires that all asylum seekers are routinely fingerprinted, and in January this year those fingerprints became part of a Europe-wide electronic database. Like Victorian Bengalis, asylum seekers do not have the full civil rights accorded to others, not in the eyes of the government at least. 

Deliciously understated, yet precise and powerful, the book moves effortlessly from the detail of fingerprinting to the wider implications. Writing of the late 19th century, Sengoopta states: "The British public and its political leaders considered universal identification of ordinary people to be repugnant: the individual's right to live and die unobserved by a bureaucracy was a sacred principle of English liberty." 

These are sentiments that should live for ever but, one concludes, may have already expired. 

· Kevin Rushby's Children of Kali is published by Constable Robinson.

Arcile copied on 3-16-03 from http://books.guardian.co.uk/review/story/0,12084,904256,00.html

To order this book, click or copy/paste the following address in your browser:

For informal latent print related discussion, visit the CLPEX message board.
And as usual, the onin.com forum (http://onin.com/fp/wwwbd/) is also available for more formal latent print-related discussions.
For discussions with an international flair, check out Dave Charlton's forum at: http://charlton97.proboards12.com/index.cgi


The technique of fingerprinting is known as dactyloscopy.  This process includes cleansing the fingers in benzene or ether, drying them completely, and then rolling the balls of each over a glass surface that has ink on it.  The coated finger is then rolled onto a card with a specific technique that allows the print to be gray, but leaving spaces in between the papillae ridges.



Submitted by Amanda Taylor

UPDATES on CLPEX.com this week...

No major updates on the site this week.

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

Have a GREAT week!


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