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Monday, May 26, 2003

BREAKING NEWz you can UzE...
compiled by Jon Stimac


Faster Fingerprints to Beat Burglars - WALSALL NEWS, UK - May 22, 2003 ...police are testing out a new fast-track service for fingerprints in a bid to get burglars off the streets...

Three-Year-Old Fingerprints Lead To Carjacking Arrest - WDIV-TV, MI- May 22, 2003 ...fingerprint sample led to the identification of a suspect believed to be responsible for a 1999 carjacking outside a Target store...

Police Seek Out Roman Potter - BBC NEWS, UK - May 21, 2003 ...it is thought to be the first time that criminal fingerprinting techniques have been used to assist an archaeological dig...

Fingerprinting Comes into Digital Age - THE GREENWOOD COMMONWEALTH, MS - May 19, 2003 ...the system's greatest value will be in the apprehension of criminals whose prints are on file in the state's Automated Fingerprint Identification System...


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.

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Last week we looked further into the concept of problem or 'tough' identifications and ability levels.  We asked the question, is it within our policy and/or personal comfort zone to submit what we know to be an identification to a second examiner if the first verifier did not feel comfortable with the volume of agreement for individualization.  Most of the feedback I received was positive on that issue; they would probably seek another opinion if they knew the only print in a major case matched, but could not be verified 'in-house'.  One examiner wrote a detailed account of a situation that occurred very early in his career: (condensed below with names and agencies removed)

I had collected a set of latent prints on the inside and outside of a broken glass still in the frame of a home burglary. I later found a set of known prints in file for one of the subjects that had been active in burglary and theft and lived about a block away. I looked at the prints and I felt the right thumb of the suspect matched. I went to my supervisor, expressed my opinion, and asked him to look at it.  He looked at it for less than a minute and threw it back to me, reporting that I was not qualified and did not know what I was doing.  I sat back down with the print and I found myself looking at an overwhelming amount of information in agreement pondering the questions you raised in the last Detail.  I knew that there were a lot of features falling right in place, and other than the latent having some voids and distortion I could not find any thing that would tell me that I was wrong.  Once again, I felt the natural 'identification' high that we all experience when we know we are looking at a match, and I decided it was too much to turn my back on.  I went to the next level up in the chain of command and was given the go-ahead to send the print to the state lab.  After the state lab reported back the verification, I knew that I had just burned the man I worked for.  But more importantly, I also realized that I should never doubt myself.  I have gone back and looked at that print several times since then, and I have no question who was not qualified to make the identification.  But if I had let the senior man have his way, I feel fairly certain I would have been removed from latent print duties and never have looked at another print. 

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This week, we look at an interesting concept submitted by Charlie Parker of the Austin PD Latent Print Section:

from science textbooks misleads one about the actual methods used by scientists. The study of real scientific investigations reveals great variety in approaches by the various sciences. Thus there is no one scientific method.  

The stumbling way in which even the ablest of the scientists in every generation have had to fight through thickets of erroneous observations, misleading generalizations, inadequate formulations, and unconscious prejudice is rarely appreciated by those who obtain their scientific knowledge from textbooks. It is largely neglected by those expounders of the alleged scientific method who are fascinated by the logical rather than the psychological aspects of experimental investigations. Science as I have defined the term represents one segment of the much larger field of accumulative knowledge. The common characteristic of all the theoretical and practical investigations which fall within this framework-a sense of progress-gives no clue as to the activities of those who have advanced our knowledge. To attempt to formulate in one set of logical rules the way in which mathematicians, historians, archaeologists, philologists, biologists, and physical scientists have made progress would be to ignore all the vitality in these varied undertakings. Even within the narrow field of the development of "concepts and conceptual schemes from experiment" (experimental science) it is all too easy to be fascinated by oversimplified accounts of the methods used by the pioneers. To be sure, it is relatively easy to deride any definition of scientific activity as being oversimplified, and it is relatively hard to find a better substitute. But on one point I believe almost all modern historians of the natural sciences would agree and be in opposition to Karl Pearsol! [ 1857 -1936]. There is no such thing as the scientific method. If there were, surely an examination of the history of physics, chemistry, and biology would reveal it. For. ..few would deny that it is the progress in physics, chemistry, and experimental biology which gives everyone confidence in the procedures of the scientist. Yet, a careful examination of these subjects fails to reveal any one method by means of which the masters in these fields broke new ground.

From the book “Philosophy and Science—The Wide Range Of Interaction” by Frederick E. Mosedale (Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1979,  Selection 28, pp 206-207.) Scanned and Formatted by Charles J. Parker, Austin PD, Austin, Texas. 

Questions for the Discussion Board:

1. What aspects of science are left out of science textbooks?

2. What are the bad consequences of learning science only from science textbooks?

3. Are all significant scientific advancements due to a Scientific Method?

4. Is there only one true Scientific Method?

5. In latent print comparisons do LPE’s use the Scientific Method or is it Comparative Analysis?

6. Are latent print comparisons a scientific inquiry or technical based observations?

7. Is a Latent Print Examiner a Forensic Scientist or a Criminalist?

8. If a Latent Print Examiner is a Forensic Scientist because the Science of Fingerprints is based on Biology, Physiology, Chemistry, Physical Science, etc. what are the following:  A. Medical Doctor  B. Radiologist  C. Aviator  D. Astronaut

Discuss these or other fingerprint-related issues on the CLPEX message board off the homepage of the website, or at (http://www.clpex.com/phpBB/viewforum.php?f=2)

And as usual, the onin.com forum (http://onin.com/fp/wwwbd/) is also available for more formal latent print-related discussions.

For discussions with an international flair, check out Dave Charlton's forum at: http://charlton97.proboards12.com/index.cgi

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FUNNY FINGERPRINT FINDS

Snapple drinks have a series of bottle-caps, and inside the top are "Real
Facts".  On their "Real Facts" #130, the following quote is printed inside
the cap:

"Koalas and humans are the only animals with unique fingerprints."

Thanks, John Vanderkolk for this week's Funny Fingerprint Find!

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UPDATES on CLPEX.com this week...


Updated the training page to include two fingerprint courses taught yearly at the Florida Division, IAI conference: The Science of Fingerprints (Jerry Bahr) and Evaluation and Comparison of Latent Prints (Jennie Ahern).

Added Nancy Masters to our Consultants page.  Welcome, Nancy!


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

Have a GREAT week!