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Monday, June 30, 2003

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

Fingerprinting System Keeps Criminals in Jail More Easily - THE PRESS OF ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - June 28, 2003 ...lag time with matching fingerprints has always been a thorn in the side of most law enforcement officials..

Pupils Fingerprinted at School - BBC NEWS UK  - June 25, 2003 ...pupils at this UK school have all had their fingerprints taken, even though none of them are in trouble with the police...

No Usable Fingerprints on Gun That Killed Cop - THE CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, IL - June 25, 2003 ...an expert with the ISP testified there were no usable fingerprints on the gun used in the fatal shooting of Chicago Officer...

Warning of More Fingerprint Errors - THE GLASGOW HERALD, UK - June 24, 2003 ...supporters of a police officer wrongly accused of leaving her fingerprints at a murder scene claimed the same miscarriage of justice could happen again...

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.


Pat Wertheim's famous "Advanced Ridgeology Comparison Techniques" course is available for in-service training or a division sponsored training activity in September, 2003. If your Department would like to host the class for in-service training for your examiners and maybe some from surrounding agencies, or if your State Division of the IAI or other association would like to sponsor the course as a service to members or as a fundraiser, please contact Pat at foridents@aol.com  


Last week, we looked at a possible latent print grading scheme.  I have had exciting feedback both via e-mail and on the message board.  I would like to hear more constructive criticism or concern if anyone has any.  Please e-mail me with any suggestions or ideas for improvement of this idea.  Again, the categories were: quantity, clarity, grayscale, grayscale shift, and surface difficulty.  One excellent suggestion was to use a grading scheme of 1-9 to keep each integer to 1 digit long.  Another suggestion was to include pattern type. (r,l,a,w)  All the category scores could be added together for a "difficulty" rating of a latent print, low being the most difficult.  To do this, the grayscale shift would have to be calculated differently than I proposed, but this could probably be figured out.  I think a public database of images, graded by several examiners and averaged out, would be beneficial for benchmarks, validation studies, training, etc.  We could possibly even have a dynamic database that everyone could contribute images into, grade, and get images out of.  But first things first... If anyone had any additional thoughts on the grading scheme, e-mail me or post on the message board.

This week, Alice Maceo brings us some thoughts on an exciting possibility for the next IAI conference in St. Louis, MO, 2004.


For those speaking at the IAI Educational Conference this year, there was an interesting proposal late in the game: put web-cameras in the lecture rooms in Ottawa so that members could log on and view the presentations. Since the tragic events of 9/11, Homeland Security has tightened already stressed department budgets. Often times the first expenses cut by departments involve travel and outside training. For many people who valiantly fund their own training expenses, the current state of the economy has them making the same cuts in their personal budgets. With this in mind, particularly since the ABFDE Daubert Symposium was recently cancelled due to low registration, it seemed a natural fit to provide a low-cost mechanism to share at least some of the information presented at the IAI Educational Conference with non-attending IAI members. Unfortunately, the virtual conference idea was not received as well as was hoped. With such short notice to the presenters and organizers, the immediate response was concern, enough concern that the idea was filed away, for now. 

Several issues might come up when this idea is proposed next year.  The purpose of the Weekly Detail is to promote information, thought, and discussion, so let's look at some of these possible issues:

1) Fear of addressing an unknowingly large audience.

Speaking in front of a group of people (particularly peers) is always a little unnerving. But if possible, why not share what you have to say with 500 or 5000? Getting on the stage is the hard part, once you begin the number of faces staring back becomes irrelevant.  Many are able to completely ignore the lens and address the audience as though it were not being broadcast at all.

2) Fear of addressing the “wrong” audience (e.g. critics).

If the information should not be shared with potential detractors, why should it be shared with peers? Knowledge is power for both sides and there shouldn’t be any dirty laundry lurking in the closet. Besides, if they are members of the IAI, they may already be in your audience anyway.

3) The speaker also presents the topic at fee-based seminars, and does not want copies of the material on the loose.

Well, what are we in this for? The IAI is a forum to share our knowledge with our professional community. It is also an opportunity to see what is currently happening in the field. What better way to market yourself than to give a taste of what you have to offer in a classroom setting, and follow through with a more in-depth course presented throughout the year.

4) The material is sensitive and should not be available on-line.

There must be ways to engineer controls into the presentations to allow the web-cam visual to be turned off if sensitive imagery is being displayed. If the information is too sensitive to allow IAI members on-line to hear, should it be presented at a conference?

5) Low future conference attendance because departments want to save the travel expenses.

Web-cam coverage would be pretty much limited to the lectures. It would be difficult to participate in a workshop from afar. The workshops have so much to offer for hands-on learning that it would still compel attendance. The poster presentations and vendor booths would still draw attendees. Last, but certainly not least, the networking aspect would still be one of the valuable aspects to physical conference attendance.

Although a new idea for the IAI, imagine how many more people could be reached? How much more knowledge could be shared? Just imagine a conference schedule published with a camera symbol next to the lectures offered on-line! If, as a presenter, you weren’t willing to be available on-line, you could certainly decline. Are there going to be a few bumps along the way? Well sure, there always are when change occurs. 

The benefits to the professional community seem to far outweigh risks. For many IAI members, a virtual conference may be their only means of ever attending since they don’t have available departmental or personal funds. By allowing on-line access to at least a portion of the conference, the knowledge could be shared tenfold.  Perhaps the IAI will reconsider online broadcasts for the American Centennial conference in St Louis.   The IAI membership must let the IAI conference organizers know that there is support for a virtual conference and the IAI conference organizers must diligently address speakers’ concerns.  

The possibility of online conference broadcasts offer a tremendous opportunity for the forensic community to grow together.  Let's try not to get caught up in the negative aspects, rather let's work together to turn this exciting possibility into a 21st century reality.

To discuss your thoughts on this issue, log on to the CLPEX.com
message board : (http://www.clpex.com/phpBB/viewforum.php?f=2)

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



There are three basic patterns used to classify fingerprints - the Arc, the Loop and the Whorl. The easiest way to picture them, is to imagine that you're looking at a map with contour lines, to show the hills and valleys - like a military map or a bushwalker's map. An 'arc' is a gentle rise, a 'loop' is a ridge, while a 'whorl' is a solitary hill or peak.

Thank you to Laura Watts for submitting an interesting newspaper article, which also contained this week's Funny Fingerprint Find.


UPDATES on CLPEX.com this week...

Updated the Newzroom

Updated the Detail Archives

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

Have a GREAT week!