T H E
D E T A I L
Monday, November 24, 2003
BREAKING NEWz you can
compiled by Jon Stimac
Elementary, Watson: Scan a Palm, Find a Clue -
NEW YORK TIMES, NY - Nov. 21, 2003
...surveys of law enforcement agencies
indicate that at least 30 percent of the prints lifted from crime scenes -
are of palms, not fingers...
US Army Crime Lab (USACIL) to Install Fingerprint Processing System
- BUSINESS WIRE - Nov. 18, 2003
current version of AFIS will assist in the Army's use of capturing latent
and ten-print data for criminal investigation purposes...
Scan Foreign Travelers' Fingerprints -
- Nov. 17, 2003
next year, Pittsburgh International Airport will begin fingerprinting
foreign travelers coming through the airport...
Businesses' Fingerprint Policies Stir Controversy -
ATLANTA JOURNAL CONSTITUTION, GA
- Nov. 16, 2003
use of fingerprints by business is on the rise, not only as a deterrent to
financial fraud and identity theft, but also as added security against
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.
I received an e-mail from Perry Sims who is doing a research project for his
museum involving Gilbert Thompson, the first American to use fingerprints for
personal identification. Perry is looking for a photograph of Gilbert
Thompson. I have looked through some of my books, to no avail. He
hears there may have been a photograph in a 1938 boy scout handbook on
fingerprinting, but these are collectors items and he has not been able to
locate one. He is asking the Detail readers if anyone knows where a copy
of this handbook or another photograph of Gilbert Thompson can be obtained;
please e-mail him at:
firstname.lastname@example.org with "Gilbert Thompson" in the subject line.
(also post to our CLPEX.com chat board for our own interest...)
Last week, William Morris
brought us a book review on "Right Hand, Left Hand..." This week Craig
Coppock passes on his thoughts on digital imaging in the latent print field.
The Logical Transition Of Goals In Forensic
________Digital Photography And The Latent Print Examiner_________
While new applications of technology may be rapid in acquisition, they are
seldom implemented without establishing a firm foundation for their accuracy.
Accuracy of information is not only needed throughout a new application such as
digital photography and digital imaging, it is required to make the application
useful. Likewise, an application's information that does not aid in an
investigation's progression is worthless.
The goal of processing information with any application in forensic science,
whether in part or in whole, is always the same. This concept is basic and
simple: "extract and correlate existing data." The extraction of the data is the
process of an application which the analyst uses to separate relevant and/or
material data from a background of noise. The noise itself is not necessarily
destroyed in the extraction process due to the fact that some applications, such
as digital photography and imaging processing are applied to a copy of an
original. DNA extraction applications, on the other hand, tend to destroy the
non-relevant noise such as the matrix in which the sample was found. The fact
that the noise is disregarded is not a fact at issue in a criminal case. Digital
photography, essentially a digital process from image capture to image output,
is not that different from traditional analog photography when you consider only
the use of the information contained therein. This is the information that is
extracted and correlated from an original set of sources. The facts relative to
legal and practical issues are how the relevant information could be changed in
a manner that makes the information skewed or otherwise incorrect.
The familiar words often associated with all types of photography are:
modification, alteration, and manipulation. These words and their meanings can
have a basis in a variety of both analog and digital photography. However, you
have to analyze what exactly has been modified or manipulated. The only
reasonable (and logical) question is: Has the extracted and correlated data been
altered as to now be false and unusable? Of course, the purposeful manipulation
of data to change the course of an investigation is criminal. So, is the
information truly being manipulated in order to falsify the data or is the
extraction process simply eliminating noise? For fingerprint identification, any
falsifying of friction skin characteristics, intentional or not, is
counterproductive to the identification process. Thus the goal remains;
extraction of fingerprint information for correlation with other data.
The enhancement process need not be duplicated by each print examiner according
to Erik Berg of the Tacoma Police Forensic Unit. The enhancement application
need only be sufficiently applied to allow for a comparison. This can differ
from examiner to examiner. The comparison information is not changed, simply the
degree of enhancement. Furthermore, the detail of the noise is not important. It
is the details or characteristics of the fingerprint that the examiner wishes to
The enhancement process is a universal process that we use every day to
illuminate information in a useful manner. Our eyes, lights, television sets,
photography, computers and everything else related to vision utilizes some
degree of enhancement. Color is relative, as are all its components such as hue,
saturation, and brightness. Likewise, neither digital nor analog photography is
perfect nor can it be. If our eyes are limited by the principles of color
relativity, it follows that any attempted duplication of information must simply
be reasonably fair and accurate for the task. It does not need to be an exact
duplication. Was the relevant information extracted? Was relevant information
destroyed? Enhancements to copies of originals ensure that a reference is
available for both comparison to the duplicate and for the creation of
The fact that digital imaging is not as detailed as analog photography is also
relative. Utilizing sufficient resolution for the desired task is all that is
needed for that task. Utilizing a sufficient gamut is also all that may be
needed. The gamut does not always have to exactly match that of an analog
equivalent. If this were not the case, we would all be using large format
professional/commercial grade photographic supplies since they offer the most
detail and quality available. Accordingly, the real and only truly relevant
questions are as follows: Is the application to be used appropriate for the
information to be extracted, when the goal is the accurate retention of that
data? Secondly, is the examiner qualified and knowledgeable with the process and
its related hardware and software?
Training is, and always has been, the key to a quality and accurate work
Craig A. Coppock
To discuss this Weekly Detail, log on to the CLPEX.com
More formal latent print discussions are available at
In keeping with the tradition of NEW, FRESH ideas in
the Weekly Detail (and the recent shortage of funny fingerprint finds), I have
decided to offer one of several things at the end of the Detail: 1)
Funny Fingerprint Finds
2) Profound Fingerprint Finds
3) Management Corner
and possibly an Ebay auction every now and then. :) This should keep
everybody on their toes, and regardless of which one it is, you should look
forward to this column!
As part of my MBA coursework with the University of Phoenix Online, I come
across material which is simply too good not to share. For that reason, I
decided that information for a "Management Corner" would be plentiful and
beneficial to pass on. One of the resources I enjoy is "Communication
Briefings," from which most of the Management Corner items will come. Some
will be more directed at management, others will be more directed at being
managed. Either way, both employees and supervisors will enjoy this
With that introduction, I offer the first
"Managing the Chronic Complainer"
Every large organization has chronic complainers who actually spend time seeking
out problems. If morale is being affected:
1) Meet privately. Listen, don't argue or push your own viewpoints.
Don't necessarily agree with everything said, but at the same time make the
person feel taken seriously.
2) Understand. Pay attention to the source of the dissatisfaction.
Ask open-ended questions and allow any frustrations to be vented.
3) Glean. Complaints generally contain a kernel or two of truth,
even when the attitude seems unreasonable. Ask for suggestions from the
employee on how to solve the problem.
4) Align. Emphasize that you want to be on the employees side.
This will often help a person think and act more positively. Say you want
to work with the employee to improve the situation - and mean it!
If you are a chronic complainer who affects morale, try this approach from a
different perspective: Meet with your supervisor about the issue you are
dissatisfied with, give a suggestion or two on how to solve the problem, and work with
your supervisor to improve the situation!
Employee Performance Problems, Neville C. Tompkins, Crisp Publications,
via Communication Briefings.
CLPEX.com this week...
Updated the Detail Archives
Began updating the
Bookstore (added a few items, including a
first edition Galton and a few others. I will be adding more books in the
weeks to come.
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.
If you have not yet signed up to receive the Weekly Detail in YOUR e-mail inbox,
go ahead and join the list now
so you don't miss out! (To join this free e-mail newsletter, send a blank
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unsubscribe at any time. If you have difficulties with the sign-up process
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to work things out.
Until next Monday morning, don't work too hard or too little.
Have a GREAT week!