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G o o d   M o r n i n g !
Monday, September 11, 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

Clarksburg FBI Officials Seek Funds for Upgrade CHARLESTON DAILY MAIL, WV - Sept 8, 2006 ...demands on the FBI complex have grown with more than 107,000 searches a day of a fingerprint system designed to do only 62,000....

DA to Probe Suspended Deputy's Case  POST-STANDARD, NY - Sept 8, 2006 ...sheriff says nursing home workers' fingerprinting was done on county time...

Fingerprint Compression to Find Criminals LAPTOP LOGIC, CA - Sept 5, 2006 ...catching criminals will be faster by transmitting information via mobile wireless...

Print Reforms Delayed by McKie Inquiry THE HERALD, UK - Sept 5, 2006 ...system for analyzing fingerprint evidence in Scotland changed, with police saying the reform will lead to fewer errors and more prosecutions...

Recent CLPEX Posting Activity
Last Week's Board topics containing new posts
Moderated by Steve Everist
A question for RUVIS users
Andrew Schriever 175 Fri Sep 08, 2006 11:32 pm

Distortion Question
Charles Parker 477 Thu Sep 07, 2006 2:00 pm

Disclosure of fingerprint charts - a survey.
Cindy Rennie 712 Thu Sep 07, 2006 1:35 pm

Einstein Quote
Terry A. Smith 183 Wed Sep 06, 2006 12:38 pm

Packaging for Latents
TXMike 261 Tue Sep 05, 2006 6:20 pm

A question for RUVIS users
Andrew Schriever 22 Tue Sep 05, 2006 5:44 pm



Updated the Close Calls page with a new close non-identification


IAI September Update, by Joe Polski:

Tom Fiorenza, a former Sergeant-at-Arms of the IAI died on August 15, 2006.  Tom was the longest serving Sergeant-at-Arms in the history of the IAI, holding that position from 1967 to 1997.  As he completed his last year as Sergeant-at-Arms, the Board conferred the title of Sergeant-at-Arms Emeritus on Tom.  I remember the first time I met Tom during the 1975 Conference in Key Biscayne, Florida.  He was an accomplished trumpet player and could be counted on to bring his instrument and join in with any musical entertainment that might occur during the conference.  In fact, he was known to keep hotel guests awake from time to time as he tooted his horn in his hotel room.  Tom was old school and not shy about voicing his opinion on matters that affected the membership of the association.  He could be counted on to make the business meetings of the IAI very interesting indeed.   Our condolences to Tom’s family.

FBI CJIS Notice 

This note was received from Cindy Johnston of the Latent Technology Development Team at the FBI’s CJIS Division.  She requested that it be disseminated throughout the IAI organization.

Attention:  CJIS Systems Officers and State Identification Bureaus, please forward this notification to all Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) latent users within your area of responsibility.


The FBI has released Version 3.30 of the Universal Latent Workstation (ULW) software.
  In an effort to ensure that all agencies with remote latent access to the IAFIS are using the correct software version, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Criminal Justice Information Services Division, Criminal Information and Transition Unit (CITU) Regional Representatives will send software to their respective latent users within the next few weeks.  If you do not receive a copy of the ULW Version 3.30 software, contact your CITU Regional Representative. 

Hit of the Year

Current IAFIS functionality does not provide the capability for latent users to record an identification made based on the candidate list returned in the IAFIS latent search response.  Therefore, the CJIS Division and the law enforcement community are not fully aware of the number of identifications made as a result of latent searches against the IAFIS. 

The law enforcement community has expressed great interest in learning the details of cases solved due to latent fingerprint identifications.  While law enforcement agencies occasionally report success stories such as major cases and cold cases that have been solved due to IAFIS latent services, there is no formal process in place to log and promote this success.  Therefore, in an effort to share latent success stories throughout the law enforcement community and increase the awareness of IAFIS latent service capabilities, the Latent Technology Development Team (LTDT) is requesting that these success stories be forwarded to the LTDT wherein a designated group of individuals will review and elect one case as the latent "Hit of the Year." 

This "Hit of the Year" will be published in various articles, such as the Law Enforcement Bulletin, CJIS Link, Forensic Journal, etc., and will also be announced during the CJIS Advisory Policy Board meetings and International Association for Identification (IAI) conferences.

Please email your IAFIS latent success stories to


Last week

We reviewed an FBI announcement that most routine latent print casework by the FBI Laboratory Division will be suspended due to efforts in the Global War on Terror.

This week

Kathy Saviers brings us information on the IAI Latent Print Certification process.


The Latent Print Certification Process
Everything You Wanted to Know, But Were Afraid to Ask
by Kathy Saviers, CLPE, Forensic Specialist
Marion County Sheriff's Department

Re-printed with minor modifications and permission from the Summer, 2006 edition of THE EXAMINER, the publication of the Pacific North West Division, International Association for Identification:

The test for the IAI Latent Print Certification program can be very intimidating, mostly because you don’t know much about it. I am going to explain when to apply for the test and the review process of the application. I will offer suggestions on how to prepare for the test and some strategies for taking the test. I took the test in 1985 and some things have changed since I took it. Over the years, I have spoken to people who have taken the test under the more various changing requirements and I will include that information.

Reasons for Taking the Certification Exam
• Improve your credibility in court and on the job.
• Improve your marketability for jobs and/or promotions. Some agencies require certification for employment or promotion.
• See monetary increases. Some agencies pay more for certified examiners.
• Forces you to study and practice towards excellence. You will become a better examiner.
• Personal satisfaction of having submitted yourself for testing by the only certifying body for Latent Print Examiners.

A Brief History
The IAI started this program in the 1970s. It was a way to professionalize those working in the latent print field. In the beginning, there was a grandfather period where people could be certified without taking the exam. There has been some criticism about this over the years, that perhaps some of those “grandfathered” in were not well qualified. It is a moot point now, as I suspect all those who were certified under the grandfather clause are no longer working in the field.

The founding Board also designed long-term changes in the program to require increased levels of college, again to professionalize the field of latent prints comparisons. The requirements now allow for some years of experience to be considered in lieu of a full four-year college degree. You can have a bachelor’s degree and a few years of experience, or an associate of arts degree with more years of work experience, or a high school diploma with many more years of experience. See the IAI web site ( to read the current requirements and to obtain an application.

When to Apply for the Test
First, you must meet the qualifications to apply. Having many years on the job is no guarantee that you will pass. If you have the proper training and look at latent prints every day or at least a few times a week, you will probably do okay. I had about ten years on the job but didn’t look at latent prints every day or even every week. I took four hours to complete the comparison portion of the test. I proctored a test for someone with just three years on the job, and she completed the comparison portion in one hour, six minutes. She looked at a lot more latent prints than I did on a daily basis.

Once you send in your application, there are deadlines all along the way. Your application is reviewed first by the IAI Latent Print Certification Board. They will send a copy of your application (that is why you send the original and one copy) to the PNWDIAI Certification Committee where someone who probably knows you will review it. They must complete the review within a certain amount of time. The reviews and mailing the papers back and forth can take 4-6 weeks. Once your application is approved, you have 90 days in which to take the test. A Proctor will contact you to make the appointment.

Plan your life so this 90-day window does not fall during certain parts of the year where you will be extra busy with holidays or vacations or other work such as term papers or a thesis for school. Sending in your application in September may mean that your 90-day window will be November, December and January. With the stress of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day, it might be a bad choice to take the test during this time.

The Parts of the Test
When I took the test, there were three parts: classify 15 fingerprint cards using the Henry System within thirty minutes; answer 200 true-false and multiple choice questions within two hours; and, compare 15 latent prints to 8-12 sets (I don’t remember exactly how many of each) of fingerprint cards and palm print cards within four hours, successfully identifying 12 of the 15 latent prints. Any leftover time from one section could not be used in another section.

A few years later, the test was changed to allow the use of the entire time of six and one-half hours without restricting portions to each section. If you only used 20 minutes to classify the fingerprint cards and one hour to answer the questions, you can now use the extra time in the comparison section.

Currently, the test is eight hours long and, again, the sections are not time-restricted. Plus, there is no Henry Classification, but pattern recognition on several fingerprints. When I took the test, the true-false and multiple choice sections had questions on Henry Classification rules, NCIC classification rules, history, chemical processing and theory of comparison. I am sure the classification rules are gone and the chemical processing and theories have been updated.

Preparing for the Test
DISCLAIMER: Even if you follow all my suggestions, you may or may not pass the examination. These are only suggestions and some techniques that worked for me.

Read the study material. Remember that the books may have techniques that you don’t do but there may be questions about them on the test. Talk to others who have recently taken the test to find out what is on the test. They may have some tips to share so you can study more effectively.

Practice comparisons, against the clock, on known matches. You might borrow CTS tests from an agency that uses them, if your agency does not, or create or have someone else create practice exams. You might ask your Human Resources department or an HR from another agency to let you practice on their comparison exams, assuming they have any. You will probably have to go to that agency, as they will probably not allow their tests to leave their location. Ask your unit to let you have all the latent print comparisons, or at least, let you see them all.
If you are not good with latent palm prints, take a class or talk to someone who has to learn the secrets and shortcuts to determining orientation and hand.

The latent prints and fingerprint cards used on the test are photographs and not actual dusted latent prints or original inked fingerprint cards. Even when I took the test twenty years ago, I had no difficultly in being able to clearly see the ridges on the photographs.

I think the best suggestion I can give you is to change your mindset. This is not casework, not evidence where you don’t know if the latent prints belong to anyone in your stack of fingerprint cards or to a victim. It is test of your skills where all the latent prints are identifications to the fingers on these fingerprint cards. The latent prints all have identifications; you just have to find them.

Location, Location, Location
You need to be comfortable when taking the test to reduce a bit of the stress. You might pick your office because the desk lamp is bright and the chair is comfortable and familiar. Or, you might not want to be in your office if it is a 24/7 office where it might be noisy, there might be interruptions or having people around staring at you would be intimidating. If your office is a M-F 8-5 operation, consider getting permission from your supervisor to take the test on a Saturday or Sunday (with Proctor consent of course). There is the option of taking the test at an annual IAI division training conference, if approved by your proctor. If you plan to take the test at the conference, bring your own lamp. Have a good lamp. Bring one with you if you are taking the test somewhere else besides your own desk.

I took my test at my house. When I was on the certification committee, I proctored one test in someone’s apartment, five tests at my agency for folks from another agency and two tests at an agency for an applicant from that agency and one from another agency. Proctors try to be flexible.

There are the three parts and you may take them in any order that you want, even switching back and forth between sections. I suggest that you do the pattern recognition and the questions sections first to be done with them and then, devote the rest of the time to the comparison section. About time, you are allowed breaks and a lunch and these breaks do not count against your eight hours.

Everyone wants you to pass the test so pick the place where you will be most comfortable, least distracted and ready to work.

The Proctor
The Proctor giving you the test will most likely be someone from a regional IAI certification committee. On rare occasions, when there is no committee member near you, it may be permitted for other arrangements to be made. The people who proctor the exams have gone through the exact same thing you are going through. They want you to pass.

Use your one or two magnifiers and have a ridge counter or two. You might want to have a dome magnifier or a head magnifier to help sort through the cards. But, don’t waste time switching back and forth between varieties of magnifiers.

Separate the fingerprint cards from the palm print cards. Look over the latent prints and separate those into stacks of possible fingerprints and possible palm prints. You could be wrong in your initial evaluation. Lay out the fingerprint cards into two or three overlapping stacks where you can see the flat impressions on each card.

The Proctor will have the test in a series of envelopes. There will be an instruction sheet attached and the Proctor will read it you and ask you to read it yourself. It will explain the time limits and how to fill out the various parts of the test. The Proctor cannot answer questions about the test beyond that.

Start the process by comparing the easy latent prints. The easy ones count the same as the hard ones. If the latent print is a whorl, glance at the flat impressions on the cards and pull out those that have similar whorls. Then, put your magnifier on it and do the comparison. If the latent print is an arch, pull out any cards with arches and so forth. You can eliminate non-matching patterns on the first analysis.
The Proctor does not look at the contents of the test and does not grade it. This person will sit with you as a witness to guarantee that there is no accusation of you cheating. He/she will hand you the unopened test envelopes and take them back when you are finished or when time is up, whichever is first. You will break the seals on the test envelopes and re-seal them at the end. He/she will mail them back to the Secretary of the Latent Print Certification Board.

Use the ACE method. You won’t have the opportunity to have the verification done by a second examiner. Carefully and accurately write the answers on the back of the latent print cards. You must make twelve identifications to pass the comparison section of the examination.

Taking the Test
Eat normally and get a good night’s sleep before the test. If you work a night shift and want to take the test during the evening because you are accustomed to that time, arrangements can be made for a Proctor to give you the test at that time. Don’t take the test in the morning after coming off a graveyard shift.

When you finish with your twelve identifications, verify your work. Look at and compare the latent prints as though you were verifying them for someone else. Double-check what you wrote down to catch any clerical errors such as, “right thumb” when you meant to write, “left thumb.” You seal the envelopes and hand them back to the Proctor.

Pass or No Pass, the Next Steps
If you pass the test, you are required to submit a court transcript with a latent print charted enlargement. Since many of us don’t go to court often or cannot easily obtain a copy of a transcript, the Certification Board will often take mock court video tapes, especially if conducted at a regional IAI conference by members of the certification committee. Be prepared with a latent print, rolled fingerprint card and a charted enlargement. They can be “generic” ones, not necessarily actually evidence.

If you cannot attend a conference for the mock court and you do not have a court transcript, it may be permitted for you to write your own questions and answers such as would be done in a courtroom situation. You will need to get additional details on this from the Chair of the Latent Print Certification Committee.

If you do not pass the examination because you did not score high enough, you may apply again with six months. You will only need to take the portion(s) you did not pass. However, if you do not pass the comparison portion of the examination because you did an erroneous identification, you must wait one year before applying and you will have to take all three portions of the test again.

If you do not pass the examination, you are not alone. The passing rate is about 50% each year. I suspect that some of the people who took the test should not have done so. Their skill level and training was not adequate. While they have the required amount of work experience in the number of years, they may not have the availability of latent prints to compare. Someone working in a large state agency with 24/7 work shifts or at least lots of evidence to look at will do many more comparisons than someone who only looks at latent prints a couple of times a month. If it is brought up in court that you took the test and didn’t pass, compare it to the bar exam. Not everyone who takes the bar exam passes it the first time. Many people take the bar exam three or four times before they pass. You just need to be prepared to the do the best you can on the test.

Proficiency Testing
Your certification is valid for five years. During that time, you need to take some training to continue to learn and stay current with new processing techniques, legal issues, and comparison theories. You must complete a certain number of hours of training to renew your certification. Check the IAI web site for the current requirements. The regional IAI conferences do count towards this requirement.

When you apply for renewal, you will be sent a proficiency comparison test. This will be sent directly to you and no Proctor will be used. You sign a statement that the work is your own and you did not have any help. When I took my proficiency test last year, there were five latent prints and three fingerprint cards. The photographs were high-contrast and sharp. I only wish casework latent prints were as good.

I encourage every Latent Print Examiner with the required training and experience to take the certification examination. It is scary and difficult but when you pass it, you will have a great sense of personal achievement.

Thanks to Jeri Eaton and Darla Shaver for their input in writing this article.

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

Have a GREAT week!