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G o o d   M o r n i n g !
Monday, February 16, 2004

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.

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

Fingerprint System a 'Hit' with Police - AMARILLO GLOBE-NEWS, TX - Feb 14, 2004. ...when a fingerprint from a crime scene matches a print stored in AFIS, that's a good hit...

Scientist: No Evidence Linked Subject - HELENA INDEPENDENT RECORD, MT  - Feb 11, 2004 ...a fingerprint expert said she had no fingerprints placing the victims in the store where they were killed...

Police Identify Body of Jersey City Woman Murdered in 1946 - NEW JERSEY JOURNAL, NJ, UK - Feb 10, 2004 ...workers excavating a vacant lot uncovered a 55-gallon drum containing the body of woman missing since 1946...

Some Question Using Student Fingerprints for School Meals - USA TODAY - Feb 9, 2004 ...some parents say they're concerned about children's privacy as a school district prepares to use prints to identify students buying school meals...


You've gotta check out the Smiley page!

BILL WOLZ is formatting smileys from across the land in hope of creating the biggest collection anywhere.  Check out this week's submissions (we are up to 10 now!) and send him yours today.


Joe Polski relates the following announcements via the IAI Monthly Update:

180 Day Study

As noted previously, the IAI along with the AAFS, NAME and ASCLD are named in recently passed federal legislation to participate in a study of the needs of the forensic sciences beyond DNA. This study must be completed and reported back to the Senate Appropriations Committee within 180 days. A few days ago President Jan Johnson received the official invitation from NIJ Director Sarah Hart to participate in this study. Three people will represent the IAI at a summit meeting in late April in Washington, DC. At that time the organizations noted above will be given the opportunity to present a “status and needs” assessment for no less than two and no more than four of the disciplines represented by their respective organizations. President Johnson will be appointing the representatives to this study committee and in conjunction with the Board of Directors, select the disciplines for which the IAI will make a presentation.

IAI committees will undoubtedly be called upon to provide data for this study. Anecdotal information regarding the needs of particular disciplines will be needed as will as hard statistics, if possible, regarding backlogs, the types of crimes for which backlogs exist etc. I suspect fingerprints will be a “for sure” discipline represented by the IAI so the Fingerprint Committee and Certification Board will be asked for information.

The inclusion of this study in Senate language is a direct result of the work done by the CFSO and especially the CFSO Washington, DC consultant, Beth Lavach. We all owe Beth a large debt of gratitude for her tireless work on behalf of the forensics community in the United States.

2004 St. Louis Conference

By now you should have all received a “save the date” postcard regarding this summer’s IAI World’s Fair Conference in St. Louis. One vendor has already committed as a major sponsor and we look forward to others joining in that sponsorship.

A “World’s Fair” theme is planned for the Wednesday evening social event with a 50’s rock ‘n’ roll show as part of the festivities. Negotiations with three groups who will appear during the Wednesday evening re-creation of the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis are almost complete. The entire conference commemorates and celebrates the 100th anniversary of the introduction of fingerprint identification in the US that occurred during the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. IAI Historian Norm Smith has been working tirelessly to gather historic information about this introduction and promises a rare look at the early history of fingerprints in the USA. Norm has many posters, photos and other exhibits that will capture the minds and hearts of anyone who works in the fingerprint discipline and prove fascinating to all of us.

Conference Planner Ann Punter and her assistants have also been working hard during the past few months to make this event a success. Educational Program Planner Jim Gettemy is hard at work on the program and assures attendees it will be up to the usual superb quality with many new speakers and workshops. Registrar Roy Reed has been collaborating with IAI Webmaster Jim Arend to develop a web based conference registration form that will be ready to use for this summer’s conference. When registration opens in May it will be possible to register for the conference using any major credit card through the IAI’s website (

Certification Board Meeting

During January, the Chairs and Secretaries of all IAI certification boards along with President Jan Johnson, Certification Board Quality Assurance Committee Chair Herb Pendleton, Legal Counsel Lynne Coker and I met in Morgantown, West Virginia to finish work on a unified policy and procedures manual for all certification boards. The meeting was hosted by West Virginia University and I’m happy to say was a huge success. We accomplished everything on the agenda and the final product will be ready for approval by the IAI’s Board of Directors by the end of this month. Thanks to all those who worked so hard for 2˝ days to make this endeavor a success. In addition to ensuring all programs operate in a uniform manner, this manual rewrite will bring all IAI certification programs into compliance with the requirements of the Forensic Specialties Accreditation Board (FSAB). The IAI will be formally submitting our certification programs to that board for accreditation in the future. More details about the meeting are in my March/April JFI column.

Science and the Law Program

Another Science and the Law program sponsored by NIJ and West Virginia University will take place March 14 – 17, 2004 in Tampa, FL. This conference presents emerging trends in the use of scientific evidence in the courtroom. The goals of this conference are twofold: to improve the understanding between scientists, attorneys and judges and to identify and develop questions for future research surrounding science and scientists in the criminal justice system.
For more information please see the following website:

American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) Meeting

President Jan Johnson and I will be attending the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) meeting in Dallas during the week of February 16th. A number of other meetings and events take place during the AAFS meeting. The Forensic Specialties Accreditation Board (FSAB) will meet during that time as will the Consortium of Forensic Science Organizations (CFSO). The American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors (ASCLD) holds a board meeting as does the National Association of Medical Examiners (NAME). In addition to staffing the IAI’s booth during the meeting, as Chair of the CFSO, I will be meeting with the Boards of Directors of NAME, ASCLD and AAFS to update them on CFSO activities. This is another opportunity to increase the visibility of the IAI and to continue to build bridges between our sister organizations.

Attorney General Ashcroft and NIJ Director Sarah Hart will be speaking during the opening ceremonies of the meeting.


Last week, we looked at two more articles critical of the science of fingerprints.  This week we read a few excerpts from an excellent article by Shaheen Bibi Aumeer regarding quality assurance. 


Quality in Australian Forensic Science
Australian Organisation for Quality - New South Wales

Excerpts from the paper(The following paragraphs were extracted from the report, and therefore may appear out of context.  The entire paper is available on in the Reference section under Standards)

This truism of legal history is no less relevant when looked at from the perspective of quality improvement.  In essence, changes to the legal system have been influenced by society’s general awareness of and demand for elevated standards.  Of particular interest is the way in which forensic science has been both instituted and subjected to reform as a result of the endeavour for higher standards of quality.  Attention will be focused on Australian issues, with input from USA and UK experiences and publications, as their histories developed concurrently with that of Australia."

"Because of the indiscretion of a few practitioners, a lack of rigour in their activities, or the misinterpretation of forensic evidence by the courts, the discipline suffered a severe decrease in credibility in the eyes of the legal system.  Faced with such an upset, forensic science was forced to develop new modes of operation.  Obligations, attitudes and scientific processes had to be rethought in order to satisfy the increasing demands for quality in the field.  In retrospect, the Chamberlain Inquiry has become a watershed in the history of forensic science in Australia, instigating a paradigm shift towards a focus on quality management."

The problem is that, in court, scientific facts are disputed by lawyers, not scientists.  They have insufficient understanding of the scientific principles behind the tests to adequately test the claims of an expert and make suitable objections.  Therefore, the onus falls on the forensic scientist to ensure that their findings have been subjected to the appropriate level of scrutiny before reporting them.  This brings the fallibility of the practitioner into question.  The potential for ignorance, arrogance or incompetence to infiltrate the scientific field is then very real, and there must be safeguards in place to ensure that incidents of malpractice are either eradicated totally, or identified and nullified in court."

"To deal with the minority of improvident practitioners and regain the confidence of the court, the adoption of an all-encompassing approach to quality improvement was necessary."

"The contemporary approach to quality in industry is total quality management (TQM). The methodology integrates all functions and processes within an organisation with a view to customer satisfaction. The tools used to achieve this are participation and teamwork, continuous improvement and learning (Evans and Lindsay, 1999). While developed for industrial applications, the paradigm can be exploited to optimise the performance of the forensic science community."

"Some of the major considerations of total quality management are depicted in Figure 1 [on the website], along with specific actions that can be undertaken.  Section 4.1 considers the court as the customer, and evaluates the complaints, suggestions and requirements made for improvement.  The development of infrastructure in the forensic science community and the role of management is explored in Section 4.2.  Standardisation and the need for accreditation is dealt with in Section 4.3, and Section 4.4 looks at continuous improvement and learning."

"The quality of forensic science in Australia has improved considerably over the two decades since the Chamberlain Inquiry.  It is now almost difficult to fathom the problems that arose during the trial because of the availability of facilities such as NIFS for consultation, and the culture of collaboration and quality assurance that now exists in the forensic community."

"The future lies in active participation in continuous quality improvement strategies, and support for research and development initiatives.  To conclude this report, these parting words:"

“…Enough of talking, it is time now to do…”
(Tony Blair 1953-)


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This week's FFF is from an anonymous examiner who was looking over some history stuff and realized that Monday, Feb. 16th (a Weekly Detail day) is the same day that Thomas Jennings was executed.  She relates that this was the first murder case in the United States involving a conviction based solely on fingerprint evidence, and that this was the first case in which Edward Foster and some other historical figures in our discipline testified.



Encourage risk-taking

Creativity starts with management.  No matter how talented your staffers are, they can be only as creative and productive as you allow them to be.  If you want to improve their performance, start by improving your management style.  Here's how:

1) Don't micromanage the creative process.  You can dictate objectives and evaluate results, but you can't control what happens in between.  Creative people tend to develop their own ways of solving problems, so you can't impose your methods without stunting their work.

2) Create a safe working environment.  Uncertainty and fear quash creativity.  When people are more concerned about how management will react to their work than about the work itself, they work for approval, not for results.  Create an informal, relaxed atmosphere to allow staffers to concentrate on their tasks.

3) Allow for "intelligent failure." Failure is a natural step in the learning process.  So don't get bogged down when things don't work out; look to the future.  Example: If one of your employees writes an ad that doesn't work, don't say, "Your ad bombed."  Say, "It seems that ad isn't as appealing as the old one.  What else can we try?"  If you aim your comments at the problem - instead of the person - you'll keep people motivated to find a successful solution.

4) Take chances.  Big rewards come by taking risks.  Playing it safe often results in mediocre results.  That's not to say that you should ignore proven formulas.  But even if you start with a tried-and-true method, keep looking for new ideas.  Breakthrough solutions usually result from an idea most people thought wouldn't work.

Creating a work environment that encourages creativity can take months or years.  Don't try to change your culture overnight.  Start small and introduce changes gradually.

-Adapted from How to Create a More Creative Staff, by Dean Rieck, via Communication Briefings, August 2003, 800.722.9221,



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