T H E
D E T A I L
Monday, May 13, 2002
BREAKING NEWz you can
LPE T-SHIRT DESIGN CONTEST
I have decided to offer for sale a different CLPEX t-shirt every year, and I
want subscribers of the Detail to be the designers. I would also like you
to vote on the best slogans and come up with the shirt YOU would like to
purchase! I am doing this partly to spread the word about the website at
conferences and such (by you wearing your shirt) and also to raise funds to
improve service on the website. SO... this week, put your thinking caps on
and come up with some awesome, catchy, funny (but appropriate), and most of
all... LATENT PRINT RELATED t-shirt text, and next week I will report the
results and offer a survey for YOU to pick your favorite! The winner of
this contest will get a year's free subscription to the Detail! (ha ha)
and two free t-shirts. So what are you waiting for? E-mail me your
Good morning via the "Detail," a weekly e-mail newsletter that
greets latent print examiners around the globe every Monday morning. 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.
Last week, we looked at
an update and comments regarding the McKie petition. If you need to catch
up on this or other past Details, they are
available on the Detail Archives page. This week we
are taking a look at educational requirements for latent print examiners.
I chose this topic because of a lot of recent activity during the last week on
Chat Board. Several people have mentioned problems associated with
requiring applicants for latent print examiner positions to have a 4-year
science degree. Concerns include:
1. Chemists applying for LPE positions as a stepping stone to other
2. Inability to hire experienced applicants with no science degree
3. #2 resulting in increased training budgets to train new examiners
4. No real advantage for the LPE who does have a science degree
The issue of minimum educational requirements are being addressed in several
venues, including SWGFAST, ASCLD, IAI, etc... As Andy Kearns posts, "ASCLD/LAB
asks that LP examiners have '...a baccalaureate degree with science courses,'
and places that under the 'important' category of requirements. They don't say
how many science courses, or which courses they want."
The recent SWGFAST Minimum Qualifications for Latent Print Examiner Trainees (JFI
vol 52 No. 3) recommends that by the year 2005, a bachelor's degree from an
accredited college or university should be required. No science
requirements are mentioned in the SWGFAST 'draft for comment.'
The SWGFAST guidelines also allow for experience prior to the 2005 cutoff
according to the following: 1) Bachelor's degree OR 2) Associates degree
or sixty college semester hours, plus two years job-related experience OR 3)
High school diploma or equivalent, plus four years job-related experience.
(job-related experience includes ten-print work, AFIS ten-print / latent work,
crime scene processing, crime scene photography, or criminal
investigation) SWGFAST also recommends that LPE trainees have no prior
felony convictions, have a pre-employment drug screen, and undergo a background
investigation. The periodic review - draft for comment period ends August
12, 2002 for these SWGFAST Minimum Qualifications for Latent Print Examiner
Trainees. Please send your comments to Alan McRoberts, chairperson for
SWGFAST, at email@example.com before
that date to have your recommendations discussed.
Pat Wertheim recently related that degree requirements he has seen proposed for
certification or hiring set the cutoff at some point in the future and include a
grandfathering clause to assure those already in the field that their positions
are not in jeopardy. Further, he related that at AZ DPS, they have far
more qualified applicants with degrees than they have openings.
The big concern seems to be the future. Some have voiced their concern
that future latent print examiners will need to have degrees, and the preferred
choice will be the applicant with a science degree. The question remains,
is requiring a science degree, or a certain number of hours in science courses
to fill a vacant latent print examiner position "overkill?" As
Graham Ford posted, "Does the possession of a BS degree ensure the better
making of a latent print examiner? The simple answer most assuredly - no.
Would a degree in "concentration", "an eye for detail" and
"common sense," provide for a better quality examiner? Most
assuredly - yes." So perhaps as we look toward the future, we should
aim for providing our field with the best of both worlds.
The Illinois State Police has had a degree requirement in place for 25
years. Dave Grieve passed on the following to encourage each of us in this
Throughout history, certain professions have
undergone change. Abraham
Lincoln became an attorney by apprenticeship, as had the person who agreed
to teach him, and Lincoln’s reputation as a trial lawyer indicates he
became a skilled individual who represented his clients well.
As the law became increasingly complex and specialized, the
apprentice method slowly gave way to requirements of formal education, bar
examinations, licensing and regulations.
This was not an easy transition, for there were arguments that
additional qualification would severely limit the candidate pool and
prohibit future Lincolns from occurring.
Perhaps these nay Sayers were right and someone of potential was
denied the right to practice, but there is no shortage of good lawyers,
A study of fingerprint history reveals that contemporary examiners
function in an environment that few of the pioneers would have imagined.
In the beginning, one person might easily do all identification
functions – crime scene, latent print visualization, fingerprint
recording, classification, analysis, comparison, evaluation and might even
assist in the arrest. Evidence potential was limited and the techniques were rather
easy to master. Instances in
which the individualization of a crime scene latent occurred were
generally accepted in a court of law without challenge.
One had only to establish a modicum of training plus some
experience to be accepted as an expert.
Minimum qualifications to conduct examinations and testify in a court of
law are beginning to change. Fingerprint
identification is in a transition period that began over two decades ago,
but one that has gained momentum due to the Daubert criteria, especially
as interpreted by Judge Pollak. The
demands of evidence examination have increased considerably during this
time, requirements which have vastly enlarged evidence potential and are
largely based upon chemical procedures.
Debates may continue as to whether latent print individualization
methodology is a science or not, but the entire spectrum of examiner
duties has become undeniably scientific.
The movement of latent print examination is toward the laboratory,
not away, and this trend has prompted a review of minimum qualifications
for the examiner.
For nearly 20 years, I have trained new hires in the area of latent print
examination, and the total number of students I have taught approaches
100. All possessed a
Bachelor’s degree, and for the past five years, that degree had to be in
a “hard” science. Previously,
we did allow degrees in related fields but did require a minimum number of
hours in chemistry or biology. While
this restriction may have denied someone who would have done well from
entering our program, this is a matter of conjecture, not fact. What I have observed is that only one person with a BS in
science has failed to meet the standards of the program. Seven others failed to complete training; these individuals
had a Bachelor’s, but not in science.
My experience with a rather large sampling has indicated distinct
advantages for the trainer and the employing agency to require formal
science education in regards to essential elements of examination duties.
While not a full list by any means, these advantages of a degree in
science include the following:
Trainees possess a comprehension of the scientific method;
Trainees easily develop an acceptance of biological uniqueness as a
result of external stresses in fetal development;
Trainees understand the differentiation between statistical
modeling and biological uniqueness;
Trainees are already familiar with scientific protocols;
Trainees are more familiar with other scientific disciplines;
Trainees are accustomed to proper analytical methods and
Trainees display a better understanding of logics;
Trainees generally possess an improved mental discipline;
Trainees exhibit a greater potential related to future challenges
of science versus non-science.
in any endeavor, exceptions may occur and anecdotal examples of success
without these minimum requirements abound.
Nevertheless, in the practical world of employment and training
practices, any employer is wise to adhere to “best possible”
scenarios. Providing full
training is expensive and adhering to proved minimum requirements
minimizes loss. The
advantages of establishing minimum requirements that include a degree in
science have been demonstrated in today’s world, and these far exceed
the disadvantages based upon the speculation that exceptions would do just
as well. As far as
tomorrow’s world is concerned, those with a degree in science who are
hired and trained now can meet the challenges better prepared.
So what are your thoughts on minimum qualifications for latent print
examiners? Is requiring a 4 year science degree of latent print examiners
to our long-term benefit? Don't say no just because you may not have a
degree... think in terms of who will be performing your duties tomorrow.
Sure this subject will spark some interesting conversation... that's the
point! For informal banter about this week's topic, you may visit the CLPEX
And as usual, the onin.com forum (http://onin.com/fp/wwwbd/)
is available for more formal discussion.
CLPEX.com this week...
Updated the bookstore
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Until next Monday morning, don't work too hard or too little.
Have a GREAT week!