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Monday, June 4, 2007

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

Fingerprints on Duct Tape Lead Police to Bandit  CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER, OH - May 31, 2007 ...Police identified suspect because his fingerprints were on the inside of the duct tape...

New Era, New Spy Tricks  SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, CA - May 31, 2007 ...agents can find out within minutes whether the fingerprint from a newly captured suspect overseas matches a terrorist database...

Attorneys Say Crime Lab is Substandard TUCSON CITIZEN, AZ - May 30, 2007 ...the state will ask for construction bids on the new crime lab in July with groundbreaking scheduled for September...

Dutch Pot Shops to Fingerprint Customers WASHINGTON POST, DC - May 30, 2007 ...fingerprints would be coupled with a digital photograph and a scan of customers' ID cards...

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

Digital Photo Logs
Steve Everist 183 Sun Jun 03, 2007 7:18 pm

McKie's facing court appearance?
Daktari 6047 Sun Jun 03, 2007 9:19 am

Ann Horsman 581 Sat Jun 02, 2007 7:00 am

Charging the defense for extra photographs and charts?
Cindy Rennie 58 Sat Jun 02, 2007 3:02 am

Exemplars and Inconclusive
Charles Parker 411 Fri Jun 01, 2007 2:41 pm

latent prints in blood
Julie 450 Fri Jun 01, 2007 11:35 am

This Will Brighten Your Day
Ann Horsman 277 Fri Jun 01, 2007 9:01 am

Statistics and Misidentifications - The weeks Detail
Michele Triplett 5377 Wed May 30, 2007 2:01 pm

Point Of View: Point Counters and Pseudoscience
Charles Parker 3901 Wed May 30, 2007 1:15 am

Poor Exemplars and Inconclusives
Charles Parker 8 Tue May 29, 2007 8:37 pm

Poor Exemplars and Inconclusives
Charles Parker 6 Tue May 29, 2007 8:37 pm

Latent Print Examiner Positions - CONUS/OCONUS
wkpetroka 143 Tue May 29, 2007 1:35 pm

A List of Biases
Boyd Baumgartner 174 Mon May 28, 2007 10:41 pm

Mass Mailing - distribution address lists for AFIS
Terry A. Smith 142 Mon May 28, 2007 7:01 pm



Updated the Smiley Files with 5 new Smiley's - thanks to David Johnson, Smith & Savage, Rich Townsend (2 submissions) and Julie Snyder for their contributions to the Smiley Files!


Last week

Lenny Butt brought us information about the recent National Academy of Sciences meeting regarding forensic science needs.

This week

We monitor an Internet discussion on the importance of known print quality for conclusive results from latent print comparisons.

Recent Discussion on the Importance of the Quality of Known Fingerprint Standards
by Forum Conbributors;
( "Chat Board"

It is simply amazing to me that the quality of finger and palm print exemplars is going down the tube. They are a bunch of crud. Here we have multi-million dollars of computer equipment and the garbage that goes in is terrible. I am surprised on some of the hits we make.

On a prior thread they talk about the issue of a less than full time examiner will not make the hard calls and the suspect goes free. How about this: A latent print from a sexual assault is entered into AFIS and it does not hit because the exemplar in the data base was not properly taken or entered. Who are we going to roast on that one?

The CJIS in this country (my part of it) is getting worse. They hire bottom of the wage people and give them none or next to nothing training and expect them to be running this equipment in a day. The first thing they are taught is which button is the quality override button on the machine. They hire managers who are computer/math gurus or a relative to someone higher on the food chain who do not know a loop from a whorl (and don’t care to either). Their concept of quality is to see how fast the systems can churn out the bytes of information and do not care a twit about what comes in or the ramifications of what is coming out.

Agencies are hiring people who want to ride in cars going fast and catch bad guys but find themselves in a very little room taking finger and palm prints from a bunch of smelly people. They lose all interest in doing a good job. They want to get away from that smell as fast as they can. Agencies are only concerned with how fast they can get them through the revolving door. Agencies have no quality assurance program when it comes to the friction ridge exemplars.

I was trying to obtain a set of palm prints on an old case and contacted an agency that a subject had been arrested at years before. I asked them if they took palm prints and they said yes. I asked for a set and was told that they only keep them for five years and then destroy them. I asked “WHY” and was told that they change over that period of time. Who is running that CJIS----Al Capone.

People (the public) have no idea the poor quality that is coming in. We rant and rave about bum ID’s (and well we should) but how about the number of bad guys that are getting away with a crime because the quality exemplars needed for the machines or a LPE to work at a optimum are not there.

For all the statisticians and math people out there, figure this out: If one out of five arrests the exemplar cards are below 50% of full friction ridge capture and if 60% of those arrested are recidivists, and 25% of property crimes there are latent prints obtained, how many crimes go undetected because of the poor quality exemplars.

Answer: A BUNCH

For the cognitive psychiatrist that are out there. What is the bias term for not doing a good job or a department ignoring the problem? If you do not have one you better get busy and invent one.

For the defense and prosecutors that are out there, you better hope we do not get this problem fixed because if we do your work will double.

For the SWGFAST people that are out there how about some written STANDARDS on the quality of friction ridge exemplars. You changed the name of major case prints you might as well write the standards for what constitutes a quality set of exemplars.

My solution to this problem is: Every state is to set up a quality board that oversees the training, education, standards, and quality of every one responsible for recording friction ridge exemplars. Minimum of 24 hours on how to take good exemplars, and then a certification test. Re-education hours required every year with re-certification every 3 years. If your agency does not have any one certified to obtain friction ridge exemplars then you pay a hefty fine for everyone that gets out without being printed. None of this “well let us give it to the non-profit professional organizations to handle”----BULL. Make it a law and put some teeth into it. If an agency does not comply then you start taking money from them. I guarantee you that will wake them up.

Our priorities are messed up. Yes we should be concerned about errors made by examiners. Yes we should be concerned about examiners not fully trained. But stop and think how many crimes go undetected due to the poor quality exemplars that are being taken and entered. You do not hear a peep about that one, but it occurs every day and with more frequency that bum ID’s or letting the hard one’s go.

I am terrible sorry if I have offended someone with my TEAR, but when I pulled my third case and the exemplars are only good for plastering bathroom walls I got disenchanted with the CJIS system. No other discipline has the problems with their known exemplars as does the fingerprint group. I am tired of writing inconclusive reports. I am fortunate that I did not develop mindset and see something there that was not there.

Perhaps someday we will have 100% proper exemplars to go along with our 100% non-error rate. I could go on, but I have vented and now I can go back to work.


I'm not in the habit of supporting totalitarianism but perhaps we sould follow the lead of the Ceauşescu regime in Romania.

On a livescan training course our trainer related the following story to us.

He was in Romania in the nineteen-nineties overseeing the impementation of their new AFIS system. In the middle of talking with a bunch of officers about the importance of good quality prints he went over to a stack of cards and started flicking through them.

"What are you looking for?" asked on of the officers.

"A bad set of prints." Mike replied.

"You won't find one. It's illegal in Romania for a police officer to take a bad set of prints."

According to this officer, back in the days of Ceauşescu someone close to the president had their house broken into and, although latent prints were recovered, a search did not identify any suspects.

Some years later a routine reverse search did hit and the burglar was identified. Guess what - this guy was on the system at the time of the original search but the prints were sub-standard and the ident was missed.

Well President Ceauşescu wasn't best pleased with this and promptly passed a law threatening Police officers with a hefty prison sentence if they submitted sub-statndard prints.

Makes you wonder what the hit rates are like on the new AFIS out there.


It is interesting to read your posting.

We (South Africa) are experincing the same problem. Our AFIS guru`s have indicated that by the year 2011 our AFIS system will crash. This is due to the poor prints clogging up the system.

Currently we are having to try an address a problem which should not be existing.

It appears there is a lack of interest, and understanding of the importance of the role of taking prints


Sadly, your post pretty much sums it up. The success of our work is truly a team effort, starting with the capture of the exemplar. Most live scans are very poor and many cards are not correctly entered into AFIS databases either.


Good Thread, I wonder how many fingerprint people take the time to:

1) interact with the guys and gals in the print room at the jail?

2) send a screen shot and an "atta boy" on the latent hits made against the exemplars they are taking.

I realize that this works best at the local level and only when the jail is part of the same Law enforcement organization, But you have to start somewhere.

In this area I have found much greater success with positive feedback rather than threats.


You are right. I will take a carrot over a stick any day. The agency taking the exemplars is another agency. We were sending the carrots but like any agency to agency thing they have to go up a couple of levels and then over to an equal level and then down to the troops.

Needless to say the carrots got lost in transit somewhere. No one knows where. No one has seen the carrots. No one cares about the carrots except those that make them and those who they are supposed to go to.

So if you make carrots and they get lost in transit to the person they are intended for, after a while you want to quit making carrots.

It is a catch 22. Sometimes you need Admin to help, but sometimes Admin is busy roasting pork or cutting onions and they do not want to be bothered with carrots.

One time I wanted to send an atta-boy to someone who really did an outstanding job. Admin lost it four times.

Rule number 1: Never send anything to Admin without making a copy of it first.
Rule number 2: Pay close attention to rule number 1.

To be fair and having been in Admin for awhile more stuff is coming from above than below. Rule number 1 in Admin is that you handle the stuff coming from above first and then maybe get time to handle stuff from below.

You know what they say: Rocks and stuff roll down hill easier than uphill.


Your points are well taken and certainly vaild (I agree with your first post in this thread by the way)

I was simply trying to point out that it is no longer "us" and "them" as it was in the past. I've spent a lifetime complaining about the quality of the prints I've had to compare and probably even uttered those fateful words " Why can't those guys do a better job? (I might have even said that about some of the latents turned in)

I've learned that taking prints is NOT the #1 priority at the jail. It's care, custody and control.

It's one thing to sell a Live scan terminal with the idea that "you can reject the prints if they are not good and have them re-taken" but in the real world it's not gonna happen. I've been told straight away that If I don't like the prints, I can get my a$$ over to the print room and take them myself. (gotta give that sergeant credit for honesty)

In any event, we spend ALOT of time sending feedback to the Jail administration and they do in fact generate an internal memo to the officer who took prints resulting in a hit. We also support their live scan equipment and are the first point of contact for them when they have a problem. When their equipment is changed or upgraded, we do the presentation and answer questions at their read-off's It's been working out very well but it sure does take alot of time.

Live scan is an integral part of an AFIS system and "they" are now "us". Even if you don't supervise the staff in the print room, you can have some impact if not control

By the way, we also send feed back on the mistakes and the jail administration generates progressive discipline for the offender.


You’re not alone in your misery. We had an excellent prisoner processing unit some years back. The state attributed our AFIS hit rate success to the excellent quality of ten prints taken by our identification officers. We not only recorded livescan prints but also recorded a copy of “inked prints” for our files – yep, you heard me right, old fashion (god I miss them) inked prints. The bean counters soon moved in and changed our identification division to a “booking station” and eliminated the retention of the inked cards nd the livescan card as well. The only thing available for comparison now is the image retrieved over my remote AFIS system and a hard copy I can get by mail. They replaced the well trained-dedicated individuals with employees that had no training and no prior experience. But, hey, they saved money!

From my point of view I see another very serious problem slowly creeping into our field.
“AFIS users who are not properly trained Examiners.” The same group of bean counters and mentally challenged administrators believe that if you have computer skills, you’re qualified to operate “that AFIS computer.” We need to address both of these issues and recognize our profession is rolling down hill like a snowball heading for...


Well, if you want to broaden the topic, lets talk about prints that are "good enough" to establish booking identity but are not fully rolled exemplars needed for latent comparison work. This same problem has existed for years in getting Palm Prints taken since they are no use to the booking officer and only used by latent examiners.

An awful lot of live scan users have forgotten or will forget to "roll" the fingers nail to nail since they can establish booking identity with just the middle of the pattern. Heck, I've heard there is talk about using the plain impressions to populate the rest of the fingerprint card for identity checks since it is so much faster. We need to make the distinction between biometric identity verification vs latent print identification.

When did fingerprint people stop getting promoted into positions of authority? Isn't it up to us to educate administrators in an effective way?

We can post here all we want but I don't think the people outside our field are reading it.


So how about it?  Know anyone who can get this discussion to someone who needs to read it?  Submit it to your regional IAI; Forward it to the supervisor at the jail; send it to the local Chief's association.  Perhaps reading the frustration within the latent community could make a difference.  Surely it's better than doing nothing.

And yes, I'll stop calling you Surely.

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

Have a GREAT week!