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G o o d   M o r n i n g !
Monday, April 19, 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 evidence leads police to arrest (subscription), OK - Apr 3, 2004
Norman Police Department latent fingerprint examiner Frank Pasierb entered his garage to retrieve some cat food on a recent morning. ...

State crime labs work to meet accreditation standards (subscription), OK - Mar 23, 2004
... The state medical examiner's office is seeking accreditation in toxicology from ... have been tested by an accredited lab, and latent fingerprint identifications ...

Matching Fingerprints for 20 Years
Virginia Connection Newspapers, VA - Apr 15, 2004
... THE FINGERPRINTS that come in from a crime scene, known as latent prints, are scanned and run through the database to see whether they match those of a known ...

Monterey County Herald, CA - 16 hours ago
... For me as a latent print examiner it was very exciting," Zephro said. "These were prints that were in the ground for 15 years.". ...


The 2004 IAI conference schedule in St. Louis, MO is posted!  Check out the program by discipline, choose fingerprints, and see the great topics in store at the conference.  Go to  I'll let everyone know when the online registration form is available.


2004 St. Louis Conference
From the IAI office

Plans are well underway for the conference.  The conference program is now available on the IAI’s website (  Congratulations to Educational Program Planner Jim Gettemy for a superb job of assembling a first class educational offering.  Jim has been working for months behind the scenes arranging speakers, workshops, room assignments and the million other details it takes to put the program together.  Please note the program is now available but registration will not be open until sometime around May 15th.  By that time the conference registration booklets will have been printed and mailed so those who do not have Internet access have an equal opportunity to register for conference offerings.

Conference Planner Ann Punter along with other conference planning staff recently visited St. Louis to make final arrangements for the upcoming event.  Please see the conference program on the Web for complete information on the educational as well as social program for the conference.


It's time to reveal the results!  The top three t-shirt slogans were:


"I was CSI before CSI was cool"

"I didn't see what you did, but I know who you are"

(Fingerprint with vodka bottle in the core)
"Absolute Certainty"

I'll have "I was CIS before CSI was cool" printed up on t-shirts within the next couple of months.  GREAT JOB!!

The winner contributed the slogan last year, and I didn't record who the contributor was.  So if you submitted the slogan "I was CSI before CSI was cool," congratulations!!  I owe you two free t-shirts, so please let me know who you are!  :)


Last week, we heard form Ernie Hamm about the Latent Print Reference Index.  This week we explore a practical side of identification.  Craig Coppock brings us this week's Detail.


Individualization Of Whom?
The relativity of fingerprint identification information.

The identification of individuals is becoming increasingly important in modern society. Kindergarten through 12 grade schools are now checking criminal histories on teachers. Special permits may also require a background check via fingerprint identification. Government and business security interests want to know who you are. What exactly is taking place when we make a fingerprint identification? Is it really as simple as making a comparison? The juries may believe just that. However, our responsibilities go far beyond offering an expert opinion.

One of the main benefits of fingerprint identification is to help solve crime. The fingerprint of a residential burglar found on a ‘point of entry’ window can be a great help in the prosecution of a criminal. Subsequently, investigators, prosecutors, judges, and juries base their decisions on our evaluation of the evidence. Fingerprint identification is information. Information about people that helps carry investigations forward. In order to offer the most accurate information possible we must be aware of all the variables.

First we should look at what it takes to make a latent print comparison.

A. Developed and/or photographed latent print of sufficient quality.
B. Available exemplar prints of sufficient quality.
C. A qualified latent print examiner.
D. A second qualified latent print examiner.
(Only verification can uncover errors of misidentification and missed-identifications.)

Assuming an identification is made and subsequently verified, we now must turn our attention to the latent print itself. We may or may not know the true origin of the latent print used in our comparison. A crime scene latent print impression may arrive into our possession in a number of different ways. In most cases we simply do not know how the latent print originated. We can only surmise the details of its deposition.

A. The latent print was deposited on the item at time of manufacture.
B. The latent print was deposited on the item before its arrival at the scene.
C. The latent print was deposited on the item before the crime, yet after the items arrival at the crime scene.
D. The latent print was deposited on the item during the crime.
E. The latent print was deposited on the item after the crime.
F. The latent print was deposited after a specific date, such as a time of cleaning or availability.
G. The latent print was deposited at a known time due to limited access or recording of the event.
H. There is an error with the associated information related to the latent prints origin.
I. The latent print is a lateral transfer. The original source may not be known.
J. The wrong latent was used in the comparisons.
K. The latent print is fabricated.
L. The information associated with the latent print is fabricated.
M. The crime itself is fabricated.

It is important to be aware of these possibilities when analyzing a latent print impression. The more accurate the evidence is, the more valuable the information derived from a fingerprint comparison becomes. This illustrates the need for detailed information about the latent print and its source.

Next in the ‘basic conditions required for a comparison’ is the need for exemplar prints. The exemplar prints must be of sufficient quality and they should have accurate associated information. Exemplar prints arrive in our possession in several different ways and can be made by several different mediums. This may be ink, 300 dpi or 500 dpi live-scan, photographs, etc...

A. Jail booking.
B. Permit applications.
C. Alien registration.
D. Military files.
E. Voluntary submissions.
F. Indirect acquisitions. (Other agencies or historical records.)
G. Other legal documents.
H. Duplication of existing exemplars via computer, xerographic, or photographic reproduction.
I. Photographs of friction skin.
J. Developed latents as purposeful exemplars.
K. Covert acquisition. (Latents as exemplars)
L. Incorrect exemplars due to error.
M. Autopsy exemplars

When these sources are reviewed for the ‘value’ of the information they may contain, we see that there is room for various types of errors to enter the equation. Jail bookings may generate many different names and associated information for a single individual, at least until such a time that the fingerprints are compared and the records consolidated. The same is true for some of the other types of exemplars. With voluntary submissions we may not always know if the person that submitted the prints is the same persons who may be suspected of a crime or needed for elimination purposes. Is the correct information on the exemplar cards? Did someone insert the right card into the live-scan printer at the wrong time only to have the wrong fingers printed? Did some agency six states away send you the right “John Smith”? How good is that information typed fifty years ago on your only exemplar card? Did that person lie the first and only time they were arrested?

Fingerprint identification is great for record consolidation and identifying individual print impressions, however it is ultimately ineffective at telling us who is whom and of what value the associated information may be. We should remain keenly aware of the variables that accompany our print identifications. This is our responsibility. Examiners must help maintain the integrity of all the information associated with our identifications as we are often the best persons to recognizing inconsistencies that lower the value of the information we provide. This especially important within agencies that have a separation between the latent print examiners and the crime scene and evidence processing. Good communication is essential to an accurate analysis of related information.

Craig A. Coppock


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"Next to DNA samples the fingerprint is still the most reliable identifiable thing that a suspect leaves behind at a crime scene."

Steve Everist
King County Sheriff's Office



How to build personal trust

Research shows that humility helps build trust with colleagues.

By admitting doubt or error and acknowledging mistakes, managers are seen as competent.  Co-workers think, "I can trust you.  You won't try to bluff me."

Other findings: Colleagues rated highly trustworthy were also rated highly competent.  Also: To build trust, you must be seen as a collaborator, not a competitor..

-From Leaders, by Allstate Insurance Co. via Communication Briefings, January 2004, 800.722.9221,



Updated the Detail Archives

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

Have a GREAT week!