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Monday, July 17, 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

45 Years Later, Man Claimed Fugitive NEWSDAY, NY - Jul 16, 2006 ...prosecutors say fingerprints match those of the escaped convict...

MSPs to View Secret McKie Report BBC NEWS, UK - Jul 12, 2006 ...part of a secret report on the McKie fingerprint case is to be handed over to an inquiry...

Fingerprints and Handwriting the Focus of Testimony SOUTH BEND TRIBUNE, IN - Jul 11, 2006 ...prosecutors are trying to establish fingerprints and partial palm print were found on a loading dock door...

Fingerprints Led to Arrest in Home Invasion  BOSTON GLOBE, MA - Jul 10, 2006 ...fingerprints were then matched to those found on the window of the home...

Recent CLPEX Posting Activity
Last Week's Board topics containing new posts
Moderated by Steve Everist
Submission of David Russell to the Justice 1 Committee
thedelightfulmissfabulous 272 Sun Jul 16, 2006 9:13 pm

2006 T-shirt Slogan Contest
Kasey Wertheim 54 Sat Jul 15, 2006 8:04 pm

Let's talk about this...
nigeus lowlef 1811 Thu Jul 13, 2006 3:32 pm

Ashley Crooker
lpexaminer 185 Wed Jul 12, 2006 4:58 pm

Time to standardized the comparative forensic sciences.
C. Coppock 436 Wed Jul 12, 2006 3:47 am

Chemical Structure of Ardrox
Shaheen 345 Tue Jul 11, 2006 6:29 am



No major updates this week

Interesting new website:

"Let your fingers do the painting with DNA11's new FingerPrints. From the makers of DNA art, comes more art based on your identity. You send life-sized fingerprints (via a kit), they send you back a Giclee print with your prints enlarged 4000% on canvas."


Last week

we remembered Ashley Crooker, friend of the IAI.

This week

we look at the Wikipedia (the online free encyclopedia) entry for "Fingerprint".  It is good as experts to know what people read when they search for online information about our discipline.  There are multiple links within the website version of the entry, so you are encouraged to visit and view the definition and accompanying links from there.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This article is about human fingerprints. See also Fingerprint (disambiguation).

A fingerprint is an impression normally made by ink or contaminants transferred from the peaks of friction skin ridges to a relatively smooth surface such as a fingerprint card. These ridges are sometimes known as "dermal ridges" or "dermal papillae". The term fingerprint normally refers to impressions transferred from the pad on the last joint of fingers and thumbs, though fingerprint cards also typically record portions of lower joint areas of the fingers (which are also used to effect identifications). Friction skin ridges are not unique to humans, however, and some species of primate also have friction skin ridges on "fingers" and paws in configurations sometimes similar to human friction ridge skin. Some New World monkeys also have friction ridge skin on their tails, possibly associated with use of their tails for gripping during climbing, and the knuckle-walking great apes have friction ridge skin on the dorsal surfaces of their fingers. Friction skin ridges on humans are commonly believed to provide traction for grasping objects. In the over 100 years that fingerprints have been examined and compared, no two areas of friction ridge skin on any two fingers or palms (including between identical twins) have been found to have the same friction ridge characteristics.

Image: The tip of a finger showing the fingerprint.
Image: The same fingerprint as it would be detected on a surface.


1 Fingerprint identification
2 Latent prints
3 Patent prints
4 Plastic prints
5 Classifying fingerprints
6 Timeline
7 Reliability of fingerprinting as an identification method
7.1 Brandon Mayfield
7.2 Shirley McKie
7.3 Stephan Cowans
7.4 William West
8 Footprints
9 US fingerprint databases
10 Fingerprint compression
11 Fingerprint locks
12 See also
13 External links
14 News stories

Fingerprint identification
Fingerprint identification (sometimes referred to as dactyloscopy) is the process of comparing questioned and known friction skin ridge impressions (see Minutiae) from fingers, palms, and toes to determine if the impressions are from the same finger (or palm, toe, etc.). The flexibility of friction ridge skin means that no two finger or palm prints are ever exactly alike (never identical in every detail), even two impressions recorded immediately after each other. Fingerprint identification (also referred to as individualization) occurs when an expert (or an expert computer system operating under threshold scoring rules) determines that two friction ridge impressions originated from the same finger or palm (or toe, sole) to the exclusion of all others.

Latent prints
Although the word latent means hidden or invisible, in modern usage for forensic science the term latent prints means any chance or accidental impression left by friction ridge skin on a surface, regardless of whether it is visible or invisible at the time of deposition. Electronic, chemical and physical processing techniques permit visualization of invisible latent print residue whether it is from natural secretions of the eccrine glands present on friction ridge skin (which produce palmar sweat, but no oils), or whether the impression is in a contaminate such as oil, blood, paint, ink, etc.

Patent prints
These are prints which are obvious to the human eye and are caused by a transfer of foreign material on the finger, onto a surface. Because they are already visible they need no enhancement, and are photographed instead of being lifted. Where possible, the item containing the print is taken away and looked at by forensic scientists.

Plastic prints
A plastic print is a friction ridge impression from a finger or palm (or toe/foot) deposited in a material that retains the shape of the ridge detail. Commonly encountered examples are melted candle wax, putty removed from the perimeter of window panes and thick grease deposits on car parts. Such prints are already visible and need no enhancement, but investigators must not overlook the potential that invisible latent prints deposited by accomplices may also be on such surfaces. After photographically recording such prints, attempts should be made to visualize other non-plastic impressions deposited in natural finger/palm secretions (eccrine gland secretions) or contaminates.

Classifying fingerprints
There are three basic fingerprint patterns: Arch, Loop and Whorl. There are also more complex classification systems that further break down patterns to plain arches or tented arches. Loops may be radial or ulnar. Whorls also have sub-group classifications including plain whorls, accidental whorls, double loop whorls, and central pocket loop whorls.

Right loop
Tented arch

There is no clear date at which fingerprinting was first used. However, significant modern dates documenting the use of fingerprints for positive identification are as follows:

1823: Jan Evangelista Purkyne, a professor of anatomy at the University of Breslau, published his thesis discussing 9 fingerprint patterns, but he did not mention the use of fingerprints to identify persons.

1880: The Scot Dr Henry Faulds published his first paper on the subject in the scientific journal Nature in
1880. Returning to the UK in 1886, he offered the concept to the Metropolitan Police in London but was dismissed.

1892: Sir Francis Galton published a detailed statistical model of fingerprint analysis and identification and encouraged its use in forensic science in his book Finger Prints.

1892: Juan Vucetich, an Argentine police officer who had been studying Galton pattern types for a year, made the first criminal fingerprint identification. He successfully proved Francisca Rojas guilty of having murdered after showing that the bloody fingerprint found at the crime scene was hers, and could only be hers.

1897: World's first Fingerprint Bureau opens in Calcutta (now Kolkata) India after the Council of the Governor General approved a committee report (on 12 June 1897) that fingerprints should be used for classification of criminal records. Working in the Calcutta Anthropometric Bureau (before it became the Fingerprint Bureau) were Azizul Haque and Hem Chandra Bose. Haque and Bose are the Indian fingerprint experts credited with primary development of the fingerprint classification system eventually named for their supervisor, Sir Edward Richard Henry.

1901: The first United Kingdom Fingerprint Bureau was founded in Scotland Yard. The Henry Classification System, devised by Sir Edward Richard Henry with the help of Haque and Bose, was accepted in England and Wales.

1902: Dr. Henry P. DeForrest used fingerprinting in the New York Civil Service.

Reliability of fingerprinting as an identification method

A member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police demonstrates the location of ridge endings, bifurcations and dots.  Fingerprints collected at a crime scene, or on items of evidence from a crime, can be used in forensic science to identify suspects, victims and other persons who touched a surface. Fingerprint identification emerged as an important system within police agencies in the late 19th century, when it replaced anthropometric measurements as a more reliable method for identifying persons having a prior record, often under an alias name, in a criminal record repository.

Fingerprint identification was the first forensic discipline (in 1977) to formally institute a professional certification program for individual experts, including a procedure for decertifying those making errors. Other forensic disciplines later followed suit in establishing certification programs whereby certification could be revoked for error.

Fingerprint identification effects far more positive identifications of persons worldwide daily than any other human identification procedure. The American federal government alone effects positive identification of over 70,000 persons most days, including US Visit (Department of Homeland Security) and Federal Bureau of Investigation fingerprint activities. A large percentage of the identifications (approximately 92% of US Visit identifications) are effected in a lights-out (no human involved) computer identification process with 100% accuracy based on only two fingerprints.

The fingerprint community recognizes two types of errors. A missed identification, or false negative, occurs when a latent print that should have been identified with the suspect was not. The second is an erroneous identification, where the latent print is attributed to someone other than the source. This is considered the more serious of the errors. Other errors can include transcript errors in the documentation relating to the report of latent print findings.

As in any field of human endeavor, errors in fingerprint identifications can and do occur. Such errors in fingerprint identification are so rare that when they occur, they normally make headlines worldwide. One of the most famous fingerprint identification mistakes was made by the FBI Laboratory in 2004. Although the FBI Laboratory had previously made about one latent fingerprint identification error each eleven years, the 2004 error was the first instance in the 84 years of the FBI Laboratory's operation when an error was not discovered and corrected before it caused an innocent person to be jailed. Following the discovery of the error, the FBI Laboratory underwent both internal and external review as well as an investigation by the Office of Inspector General. The decision of the review panels as well as the OIG was that fingerprint analysis was reliable and the incident in question had resulted from practitioner error.

However, the very nature of critical review at such agencies as the FBI and many law enforcement agencies precludes the identification of most fingerprint errors. Some notable errors are listed below. Critics of the science have recently referred to an FBI publication entitled "The Science of Fingerprints" which mentions fingerprints as "infallible." However, this publication deals with fingerprint classification and not fingerprint identification.

In addition, critics of the fingerprint science have often compared it to the probability-based examinations in the DNA field. While DNA samples may be highly conserved, latent fingerprints are subject to the pliability of skin when contacting a surface. Thus, any statistical model to accurately quantify the likelihood of a fingerprint match is highly ineffectual. Further, critics have claimed that the fingerprint science is resistent to peer review or general accountability in the scientific community. In actuality, much of the scientific community has failed to take an interest in fingerprint science. This fact is evident in the lack of widespread research at universities as well as private and public research facilities.

Below are several noteworthy examples of fingerprint errors:

Brandon Mayfield
A case of erroneous identification: Brandon Mayfield is an Oregon lawyer who was identified as a participant in the Madrid bombing based on a fingerprint match by the FBI. The FBI Latent Print Unit ran the print collected in Madrid and reported a match against one of 20 fingerprint candidates returned in a search response from their Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification (IAFIS) system. The FBI initially called the match "100 percent positive" and an "absolutely incontrovertible match". The Spanish National Police examiners concluded the prints did not match Mayfield and they eventually identified another man who matched the prints. The FBI immediately acknowledged they were in error and he was released from custody. In January of 2006, a U. S. Justice Department report was released which faulted the FBI for sloppy work but exonerated them of more serious allegations. The report also found that the erroneous identification was due to misapplication of the identification methodology by the examiners involved and not a reflection of the reliability of fingerprint evidence.

Shirley McKie
A case of erroneous identification: Shirley McKie was a policewoman in 1997 when she was accused of leaving her thumb print inside a house in Kilmarnock, Scotland where Marion Ross had been murdered. Although PC McKie denied having been inside the house, she was arrested in a dawn raid the following year and charged with perjury. The only evidence was the thumb print allegedly found at the murder scene. Two American experts testified on her behalf at her trial in May 1999 and she was found not guilty. The Scottish Criminal Record Office (SCRO) never admitted a mistake.

On February 7, 2006, McKie was awarded 750,000 in compensation from the Scottish Executive and the SCRO.[1] Controversy continues to surround the McKie case with calls for the resignations of Scottish ministers and for either a public or a judicial inquiry into the matter.[2]

Stephan Cowans
A case of erroneous identification: Stephan Cowans was convicted of attempted murder in 1997 after he was accused of the shooting of a police officer while fleeing a robbery in Roxbury, Massachusetts. He was implicated in the crime by the testimony of two witnesses, one of which was the victim. The other evidence was a fingerprint on a glass mug that the assailant drank water from, and experts testified that the fingerprint belonged to him. He was found guilty and sent to prison with a sentence of 35 years. While in prison he earned money cleaning up biohazards to accrue enough money to have the evidence tested for DNA. The DNA did not match his, he had already served six years in prison before he was released.

William West
A story that some regard as apocryphal circulates about events occurring in the early 20th century when a man was spotted in the incoming prisoner line at the U.S. Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas by a guard who recognized him and thought he was already in the prison population. Upon examination, the incoming prisoner claimed to be named Will West, while the existing prisoner was named William West. According to their Bertillon measurements, they were essentially indistinguishable. Only their fingerprints could readily identify them, and the Bertillon Method was discredited.

There is evidence that men named Will and William West were both imprisoned in the Federal Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas, between 1903 and 1909. However, the details of the case are suspicious, especially since they differ between retellings, and the story did not appear in print until 1918. Today, people familiar with the story differ on whether the story was accurate, a case of people (possibly separated twins) who bore a striking resemblance, a case of known twins, or complete fiction. The story of Will West is mentioned on page 167 of Forensic Uses of Digital Imaging by John C. Russ, with mug shots of "the two Will Wests" on page 168.

Friction ridge skin present on the soles of the feet and toes (plantar surfaces) is as unique as ridge detail on the fingers and palms (palmar surfaces). When recovered at crime scenes or on items of evidence, sole and toe impressions are used in the same manner as finger and palm prints to effect identifications. Footprint (toe and sole friction ridge skin) evidence has been admitted in US courts since 1934 (People v. Les, 267 Michigan 648, 255 NW 407).

Footprints of infants, along with thumb or index finger prints of mothers, are still commonly recorded in hospitals to assist in verifying the identity of infants. Often, the only identifiable ridge detail in such impressions is from the large toe or adjacent to the large toe, due to the difficulty of recording such fine detail. When legible ridge detail is lacking, DNA is normally effective (except in instances of chimaerism) for indirectly identifying infants by confirming maternity and paternity of an infant's parents.

It is not uncommon for military records of flight personnel to include bare foot inked impressions. Friction ridge skin protected inside flight boots tends to survive the trauma of a plane crash (and accompanying fire) better than fingers. Even though the U.S. Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL) stores refrigerated DNA samples from all current active duty and reserve personnel, almost all casualty identifications are effected using fingerprints from military ID card records (live scan fingerprints are recorded at the time such cards are issued). When friction ridge skin is not available from deceased military personnel, DNA and dental records are used to confirm identity.

US fingerprint databases
The FBI manages a fingerprint identification system and database called IAFIS, which currently holds the fingerprints and criminal records of over fifty-one million criminal record subjects, and over 1.5 million civil (non-criminal) fingerprint records. US Visit currently holds a repository of over 50 million persons, primarily in the form of two-finger records (by 2008, US Visit is transforming to a system recording FBI-standard tenprint records).

Fingerprint compression
Most American law enforcement agencies use Wavelet Scalar Quantization (WSQ), a wavelet-based system for efficient storage of compressed fingerprint images at 500 pixels per inch (ppi). WSQ was developed by the FBI, the Los Alamos National Lab, and the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST). For fingerprints recorded at 1000 ppi spatial resolution, law enforcement (including the FBI) uses JPEG 2000 instead of WSQ.

Fingerprint locks
In the 2000s, electronic fingerprint readers have been introduced for security applications such as identification of computer users (log-in authentication). However, early devices have been discovered to be vulnerable to quite simple methods of deception, such as fake fingerprints cast in gels. In 2006, fingerprint sensors gained popularity in the notebook PC market. Built-in sensors in ThinkPads, VAIO laptops, and others also double as motion detectors for document scrolling, like the scroll wheel.

See also
New York State Police Troop C scandal
Forged evidence
Fingerprint authentication

External links:
International Association for Identification - World's largest and oldest professional organization for fingerprint experts.
Latent Print Certification Board - International Roster of Certified Fingerprint Experts
The Fingerprint Society - Society for Fingerprint Examiners.
Scientific Working Group on Friction Ridge Analysis, Study and Technology - US national working group on fingerprint examination.
Latent Print Examination
Fingerprint Processing Guide
Online Fingerprint Dictionary - Definitions, references, and more.
Online Fingerprint Reference Search Engine
Biometrics Research Lab
Galton's Finger Prints
Henry, Faulds, and Herschel's works on fingerprints - Comprehensive site about fingerprints.
How to fake fingerprints
Will West as fable
Fingerprint research and evaluation at the US National Institute of Standards and Technology
Fingerprint pattern distribution statistics
Complete Latent Print Examination

News stories:
Do fingerprints lie? - The New Yorker
New York Times; "Can Prints Lie? Yes, Man Finds To His Dismay. In front of the immigration judge, the tall, muscular man began to weep. No, he had patiently tried to explain, he was not Leo Rosario, a drug dealer and a prime candidate for deportation. He was telling the truth. He was Rene Ramon Sanchez, an auto-body worker and merengue ..."
New York Times; July 30, 1993; "Police Investigation Supervisor Admits Faking Fingerprints"

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

Have a GREAT week!