T H E
D E T A I L
Monday, February 17, 2003
BREAKING NEWz you can
compiled by Jon Stimac
IAI AFIS Committee
Survey - ONIN.COM/FP
- Feb. 2003 ...survey
data will provide valuable information to promote the development of the
I-AFIS systems and its inter-connectivity...
Whodunit Effect - THE
BOSTON GLOBE - Feb. 9, 2003
dramas are having an unexpected impact in the real world: The public
thinks every crime can be solved, and solved now - just like on TV...
Ends Long Search to ID Bodies - ST.
PETERSBURG TIMES - Feb.11,
to new technology, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office can tap into
the national FBI fingerprint database...
Agencies Get Fast Fingerprint ID System - WBAY-TV
- Feb.14, 2003 ...the
system can also compare palm prints and notify the police agency that put
the fingerprints in the database...
Worker Compensated - THE EVENING
CHRONICLE, UK - Feb. 15, 2003
33-year-old was originally fired in 1999 for falsifying a date on a
fingerprint continuity record...
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.
press conference in Utah over the weekend revealed that an identification
presented at the preliminary hearing of a suspect in a 1996 Utah murder was
erroneous. The examiner who made and testified to that erroneous
identification was Scott Spjut. After Scott's untimely death, the case was
sent to the Utah State lab by the prosecutor for review so someone could testify
in Scott's absence. It was then that the erroneous identification was
discovered. The circumstances surrounding Scott's death are currently
under investigation. The facts at this point are still very sketchy, but
it is important not to let rumor run rampant. Scott was a bright and
competent latent print examiner. One likely scenario is that the ACE-V
methodology in that particular identification was not followed, most probably
that the evaluation phase was not given due attention and that verification was
lacking in some respect. As noted in the article, a review of Scott's
prior casework is underway. For more detail on the information released at
the press conference, click here: Bloody
Prints Don't Match - THE
STANDARD EXAMINER, UT - Feb. 15, 2003
The IAI AFIS
committee is requesting help in order to gain a better understanding of the
total number of crime scene latent prints that:
· Are available for processing
· Are being submitted for fingerprint processing
· Are or are not being processed via AFIS systems
· Could potentially be submitted to other Local, Regional, or National systems
A questionnaire is available on the IAI AFIS Committee website at ONIN.com.
The questionnaire will also provide an indication of the possible hidden demand
for AFIS system capacity and provide information on the number and type of crime
scene latent prints that are currently not suitable for AFIS searching (i.e.:
Tips, sides, second joints, palms etc).
This data will provide us with valuable information to promote the development
of integrated AFIS systems which promote inter-connectivity. We will make
recommendations to the AFIS suppliers on how they can improve their systems to
tap into this huge potential for identifications from crime scene prints that
are not currently searchable in present systems.
A second goal is to facilitate the enhanced collaboration of latent crime scene
case work between agencies where we have a diverse mix of AFIS equipment.
Last week we looked over plans to place a memorial for Henry Faulds in
his birth-town of Beith, Scotland. Guidance on the wording of the plaque
itself is being solicited. Below is the wording currently being
considered. If you have suggestions, now is the time to reply. It is
open for comment for a short while, so please read over the wording below and
reply with any suggestions to insure accuracy or to include aspects which may
have been missed.
(large font:) BEITH'S DR. HENRY FAULDS
(image of Dr. Henry Faulds)
AT 39 NEW STREET, BEITH, AYRSHIRE, ON
JUNE 1, 1843
HE BECAME A MEDICAL MISSIONARY IN
1871-1873 AND A MEDICAL MISSIONARY IN
(1874 – 1885) FOUNDING
, TOKIO IN 1875. A PIONEER OF FINGERPRINTING, HE IS ACKNOWLEDGED AS THE
FIRST PERSON TO PUBLISH A DETAILED REPORT ON THE CONCEPTION OF FINGERPRINTS IN
CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION IN NATURE MAGAZINE IN 1880. HE DIED ON
MARCH, 24, 1930
IN 1930 AND IS BURIED THERE
IN ST MARGARETS CHURCHYARD.
HIS CONTRIBUTION TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF FINGERPRINT TECHNIQUES IN CRIMINAL
INVESTIGATION WAS NEVER FULLY ACKNOWLEDGED. HE IS REMEMBERED WITH AFFECTION IN
WHERE A MEMORIAL ERECTED 1951 MARKS
HIS ROLE AS A PIONEER OF FINGERPRINTS.
FEW SEEM FAVOURITES OF FATE,
PLEASURE’S LAP CAREST;
THINK NOT ALL THE RICH AND GREAT
LIKEWISE TRULY BLEST:
WAS MADE TO MOURN – A DIRGE
The SWGFAST meeting at the FBI Academy went very well. Three general
topics were discussed in committee: Future IAI certification test structure and
requirements, guidelines for latent print examiner opinion conflict resolution,
and an expert v. non-expert competency test to calculate the error rate of type
I errors. More importantly, the meeting in August will be quite busy as we
work towards completion on two of these documents (conflict resolution and
competency test) and also incorporate comments on the drafts that are currently
available. Alan McRoberts wants me to remind everyone that comments on the
current 'drafts for comment' are required by the August meeting in order for
recommendations to be considered during committee meetings. Currently in
'draft for comment' status are:
Ridge Examination Methodology for Latent Print Examiners
- Latent Print Processing
- Identification (Supplement)
These and other SWGFAST documents are
available on the website at:
The week before last, the Weekly Detail sparked a lot of discussion on the
message board and through e-mail regarding several different topics that are all
related. Generally, the topics and discussions center around inconclusive
opinions. Side topics include IAI resolutions VII (1979) and V (1980),
requirements for exclusion versus individualization, probable conclusions, and
several others. I enjoyed speaking with several people at SWGFAST and
others through e-mail, and I believe I have a pretty fair idea of consensus on a
few topics, as well as the major arguments of different 'sides' on other
topics. Before I share some of the comments and/or concepts received this
week, allow me to say that some of these subjects have received intense debate
for years with no clear consensus in sight. Others have become more
generally accepted one way with clear advocates against being a minority.
Regardless of who believes what, I would venture to say that discussion and
communication regarding these issues is healthy and will continue to improve the
field of friction ridge examination.
CONCEPT 1): Level 1 exclusion but not sufficient for individualization
Most agree it is possible to exclude a source as having deposited a latent
impression that is not of value for individualization. The example of a
bloody whorl pattern with perhaps only a couple of level 2 details and no level
3 on the murder weapon is an example that has appeared in the literature for
years. In looking back over arguments 'for' and 'against' the IAI
resolutions V and VII in the late 70's and early 80's, similar examples appeared
several times. Consensus standards acknowledge that level 1 detail is
sufficient to exclude. We do this every day. If the latent print is
a whorl and the suspect has all loops, we don't even examine level two
detail. We exclude that person as having been the source of that
impression. We also know it is possible for an impression to contain
reliable level 1 detail and NOT contain reliable level 2 or three
detail. A week ago, I would have left out the word 'reliable' in the
prior sentence, but a recent discussion on the chat board made me think.
Perhaps it will also strike you as interesting:
CONCEPT 2) Reliable Levels and Quality / Quantity: "If I can see
detail (flow) at Level One and distinguish that the print is , say, an arch
pattern, I can only do so because I can see some detail at Level Two (how else
would I know it's an arch pattern if I couldn't follow ridge path to some
degree). It's just that what I see at Level Two is "unreliable", the
path can't be followed with any confidence. But in saying I see something at
Level Two, I'm committed to saying I see ridge(s) and their paths, and if you I
see ridges, therefore I must perceive where the edges of such ridges are, which
is to say there is something (albeit ever moreso unreliable) at Level Three."
The real question goes back to quality and quantity. Is there a sufficient
quality and quantity of detail present to: Exclude, Individualize. In
certain cases, most examiners I have talked with would acknowledge that you have
to admit there can be impressions that contain a sufficient quality and quantity
of detail to exclude but not individualize.
CONCEPT 3) INCONCLUSIVE OPINIONS: The real discussion begins when deciding
what to do after you encounter an impression you can not exclude, but you cannot
individualize. In our example, this would be the known print with level 1
that is consistent with your bloody, insufficient latent print. The result
of this examination is said by most to be 'inconclusive.' However, some
argue you should have thrown the impression away to begin with, and others argue
you should be allowed to testify to probabilities. The consensus currently
lies somewhere in the middle.
Most arguments center around the concept that if an impression is of value for
exclusion, then it IS "of value for comparison purposes." Not
individualization purposes, but comparison, which comes before your conclusion.
A hot topic involves the question of what you call the remainder of the
population you have not excluded. Some would say "included"
right away. However, others argue very quickly that it is impossible to
include more than one unique source as having made an impression. Only one
can ever be correctly included as the donor, and that is the source that made
the impression. How can you include more than one biologically unique
entity as being the source of an impression?
What you call the other group seems to be a matter of semantics, but many agree
it is acceptable to say that they "could not be excluded" as being the
source. It is not OK to include them, but it is OK to say they could not
be excluded. I would like to hear some more discussion on this topic for
next week. As I said, it seems like we are arguing over words here, but I
have heard some very convincing arguments from very vocal advocates regarding
the 'big picture' involved in this discussion.
CONCEPT 4) INCLUDED versus NOT EXCLUDED: And this discussion is exactly
where the IAI resolutions come in. If some percentage of the population
can be excluded as having made the impression, then some propose that the
percentage itself should be utilized to arrive at a probability. This is
what the IAI resolutions prevent. Any opinion other than
"Individualization," "Exclusion" or "Inconclusive"
are outside the currently-IAI-accepted scope of testimony. Under
"inconclusive", most examiners I have corresponded with on this issue
currently adhere to the philosophy that it is acceptable to exclude and
"not exclude" a source, but it is not acceptable to
"include" a source of a friction ridge impression.
It is confusing to some that impressions can be "included" as having
been made by footwear and tiretracks. However, with these disciplines,
there are manufactured molds that make a certain number of shoes and/or
tires. This is the group that is included. For example, if Nike
makes 500 pairs of size 11.5 narrow model 300E (made up) running shoe, then a
latent shoe print demonstrating only those "class" characteristics can
be included as having been made by a shoe in that population of 500
sources. It cannot be excluded as having been made by any one shoe in
particular, but it can be included in the group. The arguments against
applying this logic to fingerprints include that friction ridge skin is
different. It is biologically unique. No two patterns are exactly
the same. The other side to this argument is articulated well by a
proponent of probable identifications, Christophe Champod. He e-mailed me
this week and wished to pass on his thoughts on this:
CONCEPT 5) PROBABLE / LIKELY: If, following the comparison, the mark
cannot be excluded from having originated from a finger of that person, then I
would report so. In addition, I will try to provide the court with guidance as
to the significance of that association, by putting in front of the court data
allowing to assess the rarity of that general pattern (and other features as
expressed in the mark and not the print). Using actual collections, it is quite
easy to obtain a fair and robust estimate for the relative frequency of that
pattern. For the sake of the argument, let us assume that this pattern occurs
with a relative frequency of 1/200 (taking into account general pattern, ridge
counts and ridge tracing). In my statement I will certainly quote that figure
and indicate that it provides good support for the view that this person
produced the mark.
Now all readers will have realized that I may not follow the IAI resolution VII!
I have been debating the IAI resolution VII in the past (in JFI e.g.) and my
position hasn't changed. I strongly argue that their is no scientific basis for
requiring fingerprint comparison conclusions to be absolute. I fully understand
that to cope with the workload, procedures have been put in place, but these are
policies and are not based on scientific ground. In my view, we have a duty to
treat scenarios such as the above in a transparent manner and make sure the the
Criminal Justice System is not mislead. I would call for a complete review of
resolution VII and also the associated SWGFAST guidance.
I always felt uncomfortable when the 'positivity' of the fingerprint field was
justified using arguments such as: 'Nature never duplicates' or 'we cannot
conceive a mark as being left by more than one friction skin ridge area'. They
are statements of the obvious addressing the wrong question. The issue is not
the (accepted) biological uniqueness of friction ridge skin but the
distinguishability of the mark. Here, I have no difficulty to state that more
than one person may leave a mark
with the same features as revealed in this case (general pattern, ridge counts,
etc.). Indeed, assuming the above-mentioned figure, on average, we will find one
person in 200 that could produce a mark that cannot be distinguished from the
mark revealed. This is of course not an identification, but we are providing
supportive evidence that, in my opinion, cannot be excluded from the Criminal
Justice System. Our procedures and policies should reflect and address that
I further anticipate some excellent discussion on the CLPEX message
board this week. Join in discussions on these topics in an in-formal,
non-permanent, un-moderated manner :)
And as usual, the onin.com forum
(http://onin.com/fp/wwwbd/) is also available for more formal latent
FUNNY FINGERPRINT FINDS
are made of oils, salt, and moisture. When these three components mix they form
a sticky solution which rests in the ridges of your Volar Pad until pressed
against something. When pressed against something the sticky formula leaves your
fingertips and sticks like two-sided tape. When you dust for fingerprints the
dust sticks to the sticky part of the fingerprints. Fingerprints in conclusion
are made of three every day ingredients."
Seems logical to me.
Hey... that was it for "Funny Fingerprint Finds" in my pending
folder. Let's try to fill it back up! Scour the internet and send me
what you find. If I don't receive anything this week, we may find a blank
funny section next time. I know we all need a laugh on Mondays, so make a
mental note to search the internet this week. Happy surfing!
Feel free to pass The Detail along to other examiners. This is
a free newsletter FOR latent print examiners, BY latent print examiners. There are
no copyrights on The Detail, and the website is open for all to visit.
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Until next Monday morning, don't work too hard or too little.
Have a GREAT week!