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Monday, November 24, 2003

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

Elementary, Watson: Scan a Palm, Find a Clue - NEW YORK TIMES, NY - Nov. 21, 2003 ...surveys of law enforcement agencies indicate that at least 30 percent of the prints lifted from crime scenes - are of palms, not fingers...

US Army Crime Lab (USACIL) to Install Fingerprint Processing System - BUSINESS WIRE - Nov. 18, 2003 ...the most current version of AFIS will assist in the Army's use of capturing latent and ten-print data for criminal investigation purposes...

Airport to Scan Foreign Travelers' Fingerprints - KDKA-TV, PA - Nov. 17, 2003 ...beginning next year, Pittsburgh International Airport will begin fingerprinting foreign travelers coming through the airport...

Businesses' Fingerprint Policies Stir Controversy - ATLANTA JOURNAL CONSTITUTION, GA - Nov. 16, 2003 ...the use of fingerprints by business is on the rise, not only as a deterrent to financial fraud and identity theft, but also as added security against terrorists...

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.


I received an e-mail from Perry Sims who is doing a research project for his museum involving Gilbert Thompson, the first American to use fingerprints for personal identification.  Perry is looking for a photograph of Gilbert Thompson.  I have looked through some of my books, to no avail.  He hears there may have been a photograph in a 1938 boy scout handbook on fingerprinting, but these are collectors items and he has not been able to locate one.  He is asking the Detail readers if anyone knows where a copy of this handbook or another photograph of Gilbert Thompson can be obtained; please e-mail him at: vgabndo@earthlink.net with "Gilbert Thompson" in the subject line.  (also post to our CLPEX.com chat board for our own interest...)


Last week, William Morris brought us a book review on "Right Hand, Left Hand..."  This week Craig Coppock passes on his thoughts on digital imaging in the latent print field.

The Logical Transition Of Goals In Forensic Applications
________Digital Photography And The Latent Print Examiner_________

While new applications of technology may be rapid in acquisition, they are seldom implemented without establishing a firm foundation for their accuracy. Accuracy of information is not only needed throughout a new application such as digital photography and digital imaging, it is required to make the application useful. Likewise, an application's information that does not aid in an investigation's progression is worthless.

The goal of processing information with any application in forensic science, whether in part or in whole, is always the same. This concept is basic and simple: "extract and correlate existing data." The extraction of the data is the process of an application which the analyst uses to separate relevant and/or material data from a background of noise. The noise itself is not necessarily destroyed in the extraction process due to the fact that some applications, such as digital photography and imaging processing are applied to a copy of an original. DNA extraction applications, on the other hand, tend to destroy the non-relevant noise such as the matrix in which the sample was found. The fact that the noise is disregarded is not a fact at issue in a criminal case. Digital photography, essentially a digital process from image capture to image output, is not that different from traditional analog photography when you consider only the use of the information contained therein. This is the information that is extracted and correlated from an original set of sources. The facts relative to legal and practical issues are how the relevant information could be changed in a manner that makes the information skewed or otherwise incorrect.

The familiar words often associated with all types of photography are: modification, alteration, and manipulation. These words and their meanings can have a basis in a variety of both analog and digital photography. However, you have to analyze what exactly has been modified or manipulated. The only reasonable (and logical) question is: Has the extracted and correlated data been altered as to now be false and unusable? Of course, the purposeful manipulation of data to change the course of an investigation is criminal. So, is the information truly being manipulated in order to falsify the data or is the extraction process simply eliminating noise? For fingerprint identification, any falsifying of friction skin characteristics, intentional or not, is counterproductive to the identification process. Thus the goal remains; extraction of fingerprint information for correlation with other data.

The enhancement process need not be duplicated by each print examiner according to Erik Berg of the Tacoma Police Forensic Unit. The enhancement application need only be sufficiently applied to allow for a comparison. This can differ from examiner to examiner. The comparison information is not changed, simply the degree of enhancement. Furthermore, the detail of the noise is not important. It is the details or characteristics of the fingerprint that the examiner wishes to study.

The enhancement process is a universal process that we use every day to illuminate information in a useful manner. Our eyes, lights, television sets, photography, computers and everything else related to vision utilizes some degree of enhancement. Color is relative, as are all its components such as hue, saturation, and brightness. Likewise, neither digital nor analog photography is perfect nor can it be. If our eyes are limited by the principles of color relativity, it follows that any attempted duplication of information must simply be reasonably fair and accurate for the task. It does not need to be an exact duplication. Was the relevant information extracted? Was relevant information destroyed? Enhancements to copies of originals ensure that a reference is available for both comparison to the duplicate and for the creation of additional copies.

The fact that digital imaging is not as detailed as analog photography is also relative. Utilizing sufficient resolution for the desired task is all that is needed for that task. Utilizing a sufficient gamut is also all that may be needed. The gamut does not always have to exactly match that of an analog equivalent. If this were not the case, we would all be using large format professional/commercial grade photographic supplies since they offer the most detail and quality available. Accordingly, the real and only truly relevant questions are as follows: Is the application to be used appropriate for the information to be extracted, when the goal is the accurate retention of that data? Secondly, is the examiner qualified and knowledgeable with the process and its related hardware and software?

Training is, and always has been, the key to a quality and accurate work product.

Craig A. Coppock
Forensic Specialist


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

More formal latent print discussions are available at onin.com: (http://www.onin.com)


In keeping with the tradition of NEW, FRESH ideas in the Weekly Detail (and the recent shortage of funny fingerprint finds), I have decided to offer one of several things at the end of the Detail: 1) Funny Fingerprint Finds  2) Profound Fingerprint Finds  3) Management Corner and possibly an Ebay auction every now and then.  :)  This should keep everybody on their toes, and regardless of which one it is, you should look forward to this column!

As part of my MBA coursework with the University of Phoenix Online, I come across material which is simply too good not to share.  For that reason, I decided that information for a "Management Corner" would be plentiful and beneficial to pass on.  One of the resources I enjoy is "Communication Briefings," from which most of the Management Corner items will come.  Some will be more directed at management, others will be more directed at being managed.  Either way, both employees and supervisors will enjoy this column.

With that introduction, I offer the first


"Managing the Chronic Complainer"

Every large organization has chronic complainers who actually spend time seeking out problems.  If morale is being affected:

1) Meet privately.  Listen, don't argue or push your own viewpoints.  Don't necessarily agree with everything said, but at the same time make the person feel taken seriously.

2) Understand.  Pay attention to the source of the dissatisfaction.  Ask open-ended questions and allow any frustrations to be vented.

3) Glean.  Complaints generally contain a kernel or two of truth, even when the attitude seems unreasonable.  Ask for suggestions from the employee on how to solve the problem.

4) Align.  Emphasize that you want to be on the employees side.  This will often help a person think and act more positively.  Say you want to work with the employee to improve the situation - and mean it!

If you are a chronic complainer who affects morale, try this approach from a different perspective: Meet with your supervisor about the issue you are dissatisfied with, give a suggestion or two on how to solve the problem, and work with your supervisor to improve the situation!

-Adapted from Managing Employee Performance Problems, Neville C. Tompkins, Crisp Publications, via Communication Briefings.


UPDATES on CLPEX.com this week...

Updated the Newzroom

Updated the Detail Archives

Began updating the Bookstore (added a few items, including a first edition Galton and a few others.  I will be adding more books in the weeks to come.

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.

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!  (To join this free e-mail newsletter, send a blank e-mail to: theweeklydetail-subscribe@topica.email-publisher.com )  Members may unsubscribe at any time.  If you have difficulties with the sign-up process or have been inadvertently removed from the list, e-mail me personally at kaseywertheim@aol.com and I will try to work things out.

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

Have a GREAT week!