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Monday, March 27, 2006

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

Police Get National Biometric Palm Print Database – SILICON.COM, UK - March 23, 2006 ...forces will be able to search for matches of scene-of-crime prints...

Police Give New Meaning to Palm Reading BROOKLINE TAB, MA - March 23, 2006 fingerprinting technology helps department crack cases...

Pressure Mounts for McKie Inquiry as US Announces FBI Investigation   SCOTSMAN, UK - March 21, 2006 law agency is investigating claims that its agents bullied law enforcement officers who expressed doubts...

Lib Dems Back McKie Inquiry   SUNDAY TIMES, UK - March 19, 2006 ...Liberal Democrat signaled that they may be willing to support calls for a public inquiry...

Recent CLPEX Posting Activity
Last Week's Board topics containing new posts
Moderated by Steve Everist

McKie / Peter Swan
Curious 26 Mar 2006 09:24 pm

Digital SLR macro latent fingerprint photography
mel275 26 Mar 2006 07:15 pm

Parliamentary Inquiry in McKie case
sharon cook 26 Mar 2006 02:17 pm

Denver PD 25 Mar 2006 03:27 am

Anticipated Latent Print Examiner Opening
Mark Mills 21 Mar 2006 01:55 pm

Anonymous Postings
opop 21 Mar 2006 05:24 am


Updated the Complete Consultants Worldwide, LLC page to include a sharper logo and a link to the mission of CCW.  Expect more growth from this area of the website in the coming years.  If you are available for private consulting work or interested in well-paying full-time government contract work, contact me at:

Don't forget to sign up soon for Ridgeology Science Workshop, a week of intensive practical latent print comparison exercises with real latent and inked print cards.  Glenn Langenburg has two upcoming courses: May 8-12, 2006 in Massachusetts, and June 5-9, 2006 in New Jersey.


Last week

we looked at the final report of the U.S. 180 day study and report to Congress on forensic science needs.

This week

we examine the multi-faceted world of forensics, biometric technology, and investigation.

The Tri-Phased Law Enforcement Community


by Kasey Wertheim

In the world of law enforcement, there are three different yet overlapping sectors that contribute to the process of crime scene to courtroom activity: Forensic Science, Technology, and Investigation.



Forensic science is the application of science to the law.  This function as represented above includes the recognition, collection, packaging and transport, processing, capture and manual comparisons of known and unknown forensic impression evidence.

Technology includes a multitude of systems and automated capabilities that can process forensic and other information.  The results of the application of biometric technology to forensics produces reports and associated information that can be analyzed for contribution to the investigative process.

Once forensic and technology reports are received, investigation continues.  In law enforcement, investigation can establish probable cause for arrest, or legal investigation for purposes of gathering information to be used specifically for purposes of prosecution.

Latent print examination falls squarely in all three of these spheres.  However, each sphere is comprised of much more than just latent print examination.  Forensic science helps preserve and visualize latent prints for evidence purposes.  Technology helps find candidates among databases of millions of fingerprint impressions.  Investigation occurs after the link has been established between a latent and a known impression.  The investigator establishes the meaning of touch and the legal system represents that meaning to a jury of peers in the U.S. legal process.

The latent print examiner is expected to be proficient in areas that span this entire multi-phased process.  Without proper training and execution at every step of each phase, an examiner cannot maximize the chances of successful legal conclusion of a case.  For example, improper application of development techniques may result in the lost opportunity for latent print impressions to be visualized.  The application of less than standard capture and imaging technology and techniques may result in inadequate recording of essential detail for the comparison process.  Poor enhancement techniques, inadequate training on plotting minutia or insufficient/inaccurate search space limiting techniques (finger position / pattern definition) can result in missing what would have been an AFIS latent print identification.  Improper or inadequate training in comparison techniques and methodologies may result in an inconclusive determination or “no-value” decision when in fact an identification could and should have occurred.  Improper documentation of each step may prevent the legal system from being able to utilize the valuable information in the strict legal process.  Separately, inefficient activity in any one phase may prevent timely justice from occurring which in turn may allow a perpetrator to remain untouchable or unidentified by the legal system, thereby allowing them to continue to affect the life and liberty of an unsuspecting public.  In fact, we have seen such impacts in high profile cases of murders or rapes that could have been prevented if technical searches had just been slightly more accurate.

By improving technology, the forensic practitioner has the ability to more efficiently and effectively protect the public.

Who has better insight into technology than the forensic specialist?  Who better sees the opportunity to improve business processes that transition forensic science to the courtroom than their users?

From the results of the 180 day study we saw last week, we see crime laboratory directors and law enforcement agencies begging for additional personnel to battle the continuously increasing backlogs of evidence.  However, we still have not yet figured out how to get batches of cold cases into AFIS systems for automated processing.  We still don’t regularly capitalize on specialization to increase efficiency of operations.

One example of refinement of technological concepts is currently taking place in the U.S. military.  Government officials are learning that large-scale biometric systems have the potential to provide rapid intelligence in support of force protection initiatives and the global war on terror.  Latent prints are one of the most important aspects of the government’s quest for solid intelligence, so efficient latent print processing is the focus of these large-scale systems.  Process improvements are making possible things that have not traditionally been feasible or practical for state and local agencies, such as the inclusion of latent match results on the rap sheets from tenprint searches, priority real-time latent processing, inclusive AFIS latent search resolution (much like the system ten-print examiner function), and Complete Friction Ridge Exemplar (CFRE) storage, searching and retrieval in AFIS systems. 

Additionally, over the years, major systems have gone from measuring response times in days to hours to minutes.  But now many large-scale systems have goals of response times within seconds.  A new breed of examiner is required to examine legacy poor quality tenprints against incoming tenprint transactions in very short time periods, while maintaining accuracy.  In many instances such as identity verification transactions, or searches involving un-controlled capture conditions, these tenprint comparisons can approach or surpass the difficulty of many latent print comparisons.  A growing importance exists toward the achievement of external board certification such as the IAI tenprint and latent print certification, and in some cases it is required for employment in these fast-paced and highly-critical work environments.

With the growing demands being placed on the federal government to defend the country and protect the security of US citizens, you can expect to continue to see privatization of many traditionally law enforcement duties such as latent and tenprint examination.  In many cases, the pay for these positions is much higher than in the government sector.  For example, a private latent print examiner can expect to make 70K – 100K in the continental U.S., or upwards of 200K for work overseas.  In addition, a tenprint examiner employed in the private sector for federal contract work can expect $25 - $35 an hour (50K – 70K per year with benefits).  For more information on in-country as well as overseas federal contract opportunities, send a resume to

A natural response to this shifting paradigm is to rapidly adopt these evolving concepts into the traditional law enforcement setting.  For some things this might be beneficial.  For example, a department considering how to search all cold cases in AFIS might consider this a nearly impossible challenge.  However, if the process is broken down into steps, it is easy to see how automation could help.  Scanning a large volume of similar sized items could be automated to some degree, with entry of identifying information as the image name.  Those images could be scanned by algorithms that recognize the presence of fingerprint ridge detail and copy just that area of detail to another image with an appended file-name.  These secondary images could be formatted into an automated AFIS searches based on the file-name, and ingested during off-hours as LFIS 360 degree wide-open non-ULF-registered searches.  Results could be examined in batch mode sorted by score to find “low-hanging fruit”, and they could be re-oriented, manually encoded, and re-searched as non-registered transactions by interns, trainees, or tenprint examiners as a second layer of "low hanging fruit", and finally unidentified impressions can be reviewed, re-searched and registered by latent print examiners.  With this business process, very little time is spent by latent print examiners while maximizing the potential of AFIS to assist in solving cold cases that would otherwise involve latent lifts that sit in a file cabinet, un-worked.

However, other aspects of military response to latent searching might be more harmful than good if applied to local law enforcement.  For example, latent identifications on the rap sheet would mean much less when the ULF consists of a variety of impressions, some of which undoubtedly belong to officers and crime scene technicians who simply forgot to put on gloves.  To date, the military has done a good job of populating ULF’s with only probative latent prints.  And similar to law enforcement, all matches are vetted through the intelligence process before being acted upon.

As we move toward the future, look for new technology that will help automate the entire law enforcement process, from front-end automated forensic capabilities, to more robust search capabilities, all the way through to better tools to evaluate information and establish investigative links.  As a forensic latent print examiner, realize that you sit right in the middle of this world and have the best opportunity to provide suggestions for improved business and system processes.  These improvements have the capability of more efficiently reducing your backlog, solving cold cases, and ultimately making your community a safer place to live and work.

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

Have a GREAT week!