T H E
D E T A I L
Monday, May 26, 2003
BREAKING NEWz you can
compiled by Jon Stimac
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...
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...
Seek Out Roman Potter - BBC
NEWS, UK - May 21, 2003
is thought to be the first time that criminal fingerprinting techniques
have been used to assist an archaeological dig...
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
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
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.
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
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
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
For discussions with an international flair, check out Dave Charlton's forum at:
Snapple drinks have a series of bottle-caps, and inside the top are
Facts". On their "Real Facts" #130, the following quote is
"Koalas and humans are the only animals with unique fingerprints."
Thanks, John Vanderkolk for this week's Funny Fingerprint Find!
CLPEX.com this week...
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.
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!