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G o o d   M o r n i n g !
Monday, June 21, 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

Man's Missing Hands Cause Concern   GALVESTON DAILY NEWS, TX  - June 20, 2004 ...hands were removed and sent away to fingerprint experts, a common practice utilized by medical examiners....

Departing Grandmother Leaves No Fingerprints   PITTSBURGH POST GAZETTE, PA - June 16, 2004 ...fingerprint system continues to reject an 83-year-old's inked prints, affecting her move to Australia...

E-Mail to ID Criminals in Minutes BBC NEWS, UK  - June 15, 2004 ...fingerprints found at the crime scene will be fed back to police headquarters within minutes for identification...

Fingerprinting Goes Digital BURLINGTON HAWKEYE, IA  - June 14, 2004 ...system checks and rechecks prints to make sure they are classifiable...

QUESTION from Ed Delery: Has anyone done a study to compare the number of 'fingerprint' rolls to the percentage of 'no service', 'attempts with negative results', and 'attempts with positive results'?  Based on these statistics, the number of 'Not Suitable for Ident' versus 'Info/Ques/AFIS' impressions.  In other words, if the total number of potential fingerprint rolls is 100, what percentage is 'No Service Provided', 'Attempt Processing - Neg Results', and 'Attempt Processing - Pos Results'?  Of the 'Attempt Pos', how many impressions were deemed: 'Not Suitable for Ident' and how many were deemed other than 'Not Suitable for Ident (Info/Ques/AFIS)'?  Of the 'Info/Ques/AFIS', how many were actually identified to a victim or perpetrator?  How many were considered high enough quality capable of being entered and searched in a computer database?  How many remain in limbo because the searched database does not have a known reference print or a searchable palm database.  How many were identified by a comparison between the unknown latent and a suspect's '10 print' card?   Also, of the impressions deemed 'Info/Ques/AFIS', what is the percentage of first finger joint versus second and third finger joint and palmar?  The reason I'm asking this question is to determine how many impressions we are not capable of running through a searchable database (we don't have AFIX for palms).  Finally, does anyone know of a 'white paper' report addressing these questions?  If a report does exist, I would be very interested in reviewing the findings.
If you have any information that you wold like to share, you may reach me at: Ed Delery
     New Orleans Police Department Crime Lab
     2932 Tulane Avenue
     New Orleans, La. 70119
     (504) 826-1440 Office
     (504) 826-1451 fax


Last week, Steve Everist brought us a summary of last week's National Public Radio broadcast regarding the Mayfield case and the reliability of fingerprint evidence.  This week, Craig Coppock shares some thoughts regarding objectivity in the comparison process.  Some would like to see completely objective verification... just based on two images and no insight regarding the conclusion reached.  As you read Craig's article (and that isn't necessarily what he is saying in this article) be thinking about this concept and how you feel about it.  I would like to see some discussion on the CLPEX message board regarding practical aspects of this and how you feel about how it would be received.


Circumstantial Evidence and Friction Skin Identification

            The sole purpose of friction skin identification is to identify the person who made the impression.  It is never up to the print examiner to infer innocence or guilt from the individualization of a subject.  That is the responsibility of the case investigators, prosecutor, and ultimately, the jury.  Accordingly, the print examiner must remain objective in the goal of individualization.   It must also be said that the examiner must understand the value and relevancy of the information they analyze.  The analysis process is the induction process.  This process has two main goals.  First is prediction.  Prediction is the expected results from information not yet analyzed.  For fingerprint identification the various levels of detail would be predictable in their comparative spatial relationships between the exemplars and an unknown sourced impression.  Secondly, direct comparisons with observations can be made. [1]  The information has to be comparable in some manner in order to have meaning. [2]  With this goal in mind, we can see that most other forms of evidence are not relevant to the goal of individualization. 

           “The evaluation of fingerprint evidence…. Is a very complex issue…”  It is argued by some that “The underlying population from which the suspect has to be considered as being selected has been argued as being that of the whole world (Kingston, 1964).  However, Stoney and Thornton (1986) argued that it is rarely the case that a suspect would be chosen purely on the basis of fingerprint evidence.  Normally, there would have been a small group of suspects which would have been isolated from the world population on the basis of other evidence.  … The fingerprint evidence has then to be considered relative to this small group only.” [3]  With the advent of the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) some cases do indeed cross international lines.  However, the key point is to carefully consider what the value and relevancy of the circumstantial evidence may be in the case and how that evidence can incorrectly influence your examination of the friction skin evidence. 

           Circumstantial evidence:  A fact or circumstance from which one may infer another fact at issue.  Circumstantial evidence can include such issues as Motive, Opportunity, and Associative Evidence. [4]  Confirmation bias is one of the influences that can often be attributed to a fundamental lack of comprehension regarding the value and relevancy of the information available for analysis.  Friction skin individualization should be an evaluation of the print evidence itself, without bias from other information sources.  For example, considering that a subject has a history of burglary does not attribute any validity to the fact that the suspect has been identified as having left impressions on a window of a burglarized house!  Additional supporting information must be present before this particular “identifying information” can prove to be of circumstantial value, even though it should not be considered in validating the individualization itself.  This additional information may include that fact that the subject has no legitimate reason or lawful access to the location, and or has a motive for the particular act.

            General information must be properly supported in order to be considered as authenticate evidence.   Otherwise, it should be consider simply as “case information.”  Latent print examiners are constantly faced with a variety of miscellaneous case information relating to a particular individualization.  It is paramount that this extraneous information not be evaluated incorrectly.  The information of religion, race, creed, and left-handedness, are examples that are so broad by themselves they cannot support any inference.  Other singular examples include sex, ideologies, and favorite brand of automobile.  The point is that these topics are so general they cannot support a fact or circumstance from which one may infer another fact at issue! 

           Latent print examiners must deal with these case knowledge issues each day.  Confirmation bias can result from the lack of informational comprehension regarding these issues.  The concept of circumstantial evidence would only be applicable toward the investigation of the crime itself, not toward the support of individual components of an investigation, such as friction skin individualization.  Thus, print examiners should refrain from considering circumstantial case evidence and other unsupportable case information until the verification process has been completed.   This, information should not be forwarded to the examiner trusted with the 2nd ACE hypothesis (verification).  It is common knowledge that witnesses can be influenced (confirmation bias) by hearing case supporting knowledge whether that knowledge is accurate or not.  Since the true goal of individualization is accurate information, we should make an unmatched effort to control counter-productive negative influences.  General case information and circumstantial evidence do not follow the established inductive process relevant to individualization.  They do not predict and allow for comparison.  Therefore, they must not be a consideration in the individualization process.

Craig A. Coppock  CLPE

June 2, 2004


1.  Holland, J; Holyoak, K; Nisbett, R; Thagard, P;1986  Induction: Processes of Inference,

Learning, and Discovery. MIT, Cambridge   p. 347

2.  Coppock, Craig ; 2004 A Detailed Look At Induction Processes In Forensic Science.

                The Detail,  May 2004.

3.  Aitken, C.G.G ; 1995 Statistics and the Evaluation of Evidence for Forensic Scientists.  Wiley & Sons,     

New York.

4.  O’Hara, Charles: O’Hara, Gregory ; 2003 Fundamentals of Criminal Investigation 7th ed. P.14

            Thomas, Springfield. 


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Few managers like to hear employee complaints.  And many companies discourage employees from airing grievances.  But that's an extremely short-sighted policy.  When you fail to handle complaints, you create resentment, lower morale, reduce productivity and increase turnover..  Use these strategies to surface employee complaints:

1. Watch your tongue.  The way you react to a complaint immediately sets a tone.  Managers often discourage negative feedback by emotionally reacting to the news.  The complaints go underground - resulting in cynicism and destructive gossip.

2. Listen to all complaints.  Don't trivialize a grievance, even if it's a protest about the lack of a cappuccino machine in the luncroom.  You don't have to remedy every complaint, but you should be curteous.

3. Recognize the individual. 
Respond to each employee's particular problem.  Don't give a one-size-fits-all answer to every complaint.

4. Respond appropriately.  If the problem is easily resolved, say "Good point.  We can fix that."  Then identify and explain how.  If the complaint is confusing or incomplete, say "Bring me more facts, so I can better evaluate the situation," If you can't do anything about a problem, say "We can't change the situation, and here's why...".

Adapted from "The Dangers of Tuning Out Employee Complaints," by Joanna L. Krotz, via Communication Briefings, February, 2004, 800.722.9221,


Updated the SMILEYFILES with about a dozen new images!!  Check out all the new smileys!  Again, thanks to all who submitted.


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

Have a GREAT week!