T H E
D E T A I L
Monday, July 7, 2003
BREAKING NEWz you can
compiled by Jon Stimac
Company Makes First Compact Fingerprint Readers -
THE TAIWAN NEWS, TAIWAN - July 2, 2003
based manufacturer unveils a fingerprint reader that is the first compact
and portable fingerprint authenticator of its kind...
21-year-old Murder Case Scheduled -
KOTA-TV, SD - July 2, 2003
...federal investigators reopened the
case and arrested suspect after finding a match to a bloody fingerprint
found at the scene...
Fingerprints On Computer - THE
BEGA DISTRICT NEWS, AUSTRALIA -
July 1, 2003
agency now has direct access to the latest technology for recording and
filing fingerprint records...
Fingerprinting Anyone Working with Kids -
WREG-TV, TN - July 1, 2003
that goes into effect July 1st requires fingerprinting of individuals
working with children...
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
Annual AFIS INTERNET CONFERENCE AGENDA TOPICS
WESTIN HOTEL SEATTLE, Washington
August 24 – 28, 2003
Last week, Alice Maceo brought us some thoughts on the exciting possibility of
web broadcasting for
the next IAI conference in St. Louis, MO, 2004. This week, we take a look
at a recent correspondence regarding standards, quality control, ASCLD-LAB,
issues. These are all things that many of us have thought of, experienced,
are currently thinking about or experiencing, or will soon think about or
experience! Hopefully this will spur some discussion on the message board.
The examiner who e-mailed this question has an upcoming meeting to discuss these
issues, and is interested in any feedback generated from this week's Detail.
I would appreciate your help with a couple of issues in our office regarding
chain of custody and access to evidence. When evidence is received in our office
and released by our office, chain of custody is documented. The issue is,
exactly when does chain of custody need to be documented within our office? What
are some legal questions that could result from not documenting chain of custody
when evidence is given to another examiner for verification(s)?
The other issue is the storage of evidence. We lock our evidence in a secure
cabinet where one lock secures the entire container. Each examiner is assigned
an area within the container, but each examiner has access to the entire
container. Does it matter if all three examiners have access to everyone else's
case evidence? Should anyone else have access to the cabinet - i.e. a
It sounds like you are going through the same growing pains that many agencies
are currently experiencing. These are the pains associated with operating in an
environment of standards and accreditation within the professional crime
laboratory setting, and serving a justice system that seems to be growing more
and more concerned about near 100% impeccable work product.
Now for my true feelings... (ha ha). Seriously though... these are situations
being discussed in many laboratories / departments. In fact, I recently obtained
my own personal lockable evidence storage cabinet in our processing lab (not in
Was I happy about having my own storage space? Actually, I didn't really care.
It's not that I don't trust my co-workers... and I know it's not because they
don't trust me. The fact is, it was probably done for my benefit.
To answer your question directly: Yes, I am the only one with a key. What I am
counting on the defense attorney asking me next year about the gun in my custody
right now is: "did anyone else have access to your evidence." How would you
answer that if you were in my shoes? I think you would probably agree that if
your agency bought you separate storage containers, it wouldn't really be that
bad. And it would sure make it easy to simply say "no" and leave off the long
narrative about your co-workers.
The chain of custody issue is a little more annoying because it actually means
documenting something that you may not currently document. I agree that it
stinks to have to do more work. However, there is also a flip-side to this
issue. Again, I am expecting the defense attorney to ask questions like "when
was the evidence out of your custody and to whom did it go? Where is the proof?
Is it documented?"
I'm not saying these questions wouldn't be annoying. They would be. Our agencies
knows they would be. But they could also cause damage in court, and our agencies
know that also. I think that the greater mindset of accountability, simple and
honest answers, airtight chain of custody, standard operating procedure, etc.
are all mechanisms to make our testimony in court a lot easier.
Also, it makes the chance of that murder case being dismissed because of a
technicality much smaller. It would be embarassing for something like that to
happen to your agency. Heck, it would embarass you also! Imagine what
it might feel like to be attacked on the stand and have to answer some of these
issues honestly, without having a secure chain of custody and airtight dates on
your reviews... and then for that case to be thrown out. I know, you and I could
both explain everything we are currently doing on the stand. But the fact is a
(I will leave the descriptive word(s) in this space for you to fill in) attorney
could sure make it difficult for us to explain this without coming across in a
negative way to the jury. (I was thinking 'sharp' or 'smart'. what were you
Another issue is exactly what would protect you when asked about case reviews.
If asked the question "when did someone else have access to your evidence" and
you say "during the review process", the next logical questions might include:
"who, when, how long, etc." The fact is, you should already have documentation
about the "who". If your reviewer also wrote the date next to their initials on
your worksheet or evidence, then you would have the "when" covered. "How long"
could simply be a matter of standard operating procedure, which might read
something like the following: "Employees will administratively and technically
reveiw cases within the same business day they are received. If longer than one
day is necessary to review a case, the beginning and ending review dates will be
recorded next to the initials of the reviewer." All bases suddenly seem covered.
(that is a quick non-official response, not based on our SOP, and not from
anything other than my experience as a case analyst. Wow... that sounds a lot
like "the views represented herein do not necessarily represent the views of the
agency with whom I am employed or any organization with which I am affiliated.
Are we covering ourselves, or what!! :)
To answer your last question about supervisor access, I would say yes; they
would probably need access at all times, but only with your knowledge after the
fact. In other words, if they needed access to your cabinet, they should notify
you that access was gained and the reason it was needed within a day or two, or
when you returned from time away, etc. One way we do this in our laboratory is
to leave the supervisor a key to our storage container in a small sealed manila
envelope with our initials and date on the seal. If the supervisor breaks the
seal, that is OK... it is given back to us to re-seal when notification is given
regarding access. Actually, that has never happened to me... my supervisor has
never had to access my storage locker. All that much easier for me to simply
answer "no" in court. :)
I hope this has helped. I certainly don't agree that needless paperwork is going
to get us anywhere. But I see these issues as a means to an end that I think you
and I would both agree is a good end. It may seem like a battle that should be
addressed, and perhaps you still feel that way. If so, then by all means fight
on! However, I chose to let these issues come and go with no real kicking and
screaming, just because when the time comes for a real war, I want to be well
To discuss your thoughts on this issue, log on to the CLPEX.com
board : (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:
This week's Funny Fingerprint Find involves five crazy
nutcase American examiners who, when turned loose to attend a fingerprint
conference in Ottawa, Canada, order pizza and sit around in the hotel room actually
talking about fingerprint theory.
CLPEX.com this week...
No major updates on the site.
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!