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Complete Consultants Worldwide, LLC page to include a sharper logo and a
link to the mission of CCW
Expect more growth from this area of the website in the coming years.
If you are available for private consulting work or interested in
well-paying full-time government contract work, contact me at:
Don't forget to sign up soon for Ridgeology Science Workshop, a week of
intensive practical latent print comparison exercises with real latent and
inked print cards. Glenn Langenburg has two upcoming courses: May
8-12, 2006 in Massachusetts, and June 5-9, 2006 in New Jersey.
we looked at the final report of the U.S. 180 day study and report to
Congress on forensic science needs
we examine the multi-faceted world of forensics,
biometric technology, and investigation.
The Tri-Phased Law Enforcement Community
AND THE LATENT PRINT EXAMINER
by Kasey Wertheim
In the world of law enforcement, there are three different yet overlapping
sectors that contribute to the process of crime scene to courtroom activity:
Forensic Science, Technology, and Investigation.
Forensic science is the application of science to the
law. This function as represented above includes the recognition,
collection, packaging and transport, processing, capture and manual
comparisons of known and unknown forensic impression evidence.
Technology includes a multitude of systems and automated capabilities that
can process forensic and other information. The results of the application
of biometric technology to forensics produces reports and associated
information that can be analyzed for contribution to the investigative
Once forensic and technology reports are received, investigation continues.
In law enforcement, investigation can establish probable cause for arrest, or legal investigation
for purposes of gathering information to be used specifically for purposes
Latent print examination falls squarely in all three of these spheres.
However, each sphere is comprised of much more than just latent print
examination. Forensic science helps preserve and visualize latent prints
for evidence purposes. Technology helps find candidates among databases of
millions of fingerprint impressions. Investigation occurs after the link
has been established between a latent and a known impression. The
investigator establishes the meaning of touch and the legal system
represents that meaning to a jury of peers in the U.S. legal process.
The latent print examiner is expected to be proficient in areas that span
this entire multi-phased process. Without proper training and execution at
every step of each phase, an examiner cannot maximize the chances of
successful legal conclusion of a case. For example, improper application of
development techniques may result in the lost opportunity for latent print
impressions to be visualized. The application of less than standard capture
and imaging technology and techniques may result in inadequate recording of
essential detail for the comparison process. Poor enhancement techniques,
inadequate training on plotting minutia or insufficient/inaccurate search
space limiting techniques (finger position / pattern definition) can result
in missing what would have been an AFIS latent print identification.
Improper or inadequate training in comparison techniques and methodologies
may result in an inconclusive determination or “no-value” decision when in
fact an identification could and should have occurred. Improper
documentation of each step may prevent the legal system from being able to
utilize the valuable information in the strict legal process. Separately,
inefficient activity in any one phase may prevent timely justice from
occurring which in turn may allow a perpetrator to remain untouchable or
unidentified by the legal system, thereby allowing them to continue to affect the
life and liberty of an unsuspecting public. In fact, we have seen such
impacts in high profile cases of murders or rapes that could have been
prevented if technical searches had just been slightly more accurate.
By improving technology, the forensic practitioner has the ability to more
efficiently and effectively protect the public.
Who has better insight into technology than the forensic specialist? Who
better sees the opportunity to improve business processes that transition
forensic science to the courtroom than their users?
From the results of the 180 day study we saw last week, we see crime
laboratory directors and law enforcement agencies begging for additional
personnel to battle the continuously increasing backlogs of evidence.
However, we still have not yet figured out how to get batches of cold cases
into AFIS systems for automated processing. We still don’t regularly
capitalize on specialization to increase efficiency of operations.
One example of refinement of technological concepts is currently taking
place in the U.S. military. Government officials are learning that
large-scale biometric systems have the potential to provide rapid
intelligence in support of force protection initiatives and the global war
on terror. Latent prints are one of the most important aspects of the
government’s quest for solid intelligence, so efficient latent print
processing is the focus of these large-scale systems. Process improvements
are making possible things that have not traditionally been feasible or
practical for state and local agencies, such as the inclusion of latent
match results on the rap sheets from tenprint searches, priority real-time
latent processing, inclusive AFIS latent search resolution (much like the
system ten-print examiner function), and Complete Friction Ridge Exemplar (CFRE)
storage, searching and retrieval in AFIS systems.
Additionally, over the years, major systems have gone from measuring
response times in days to hours to minutes. But now many large-scale
systems have goals of response times within seconds. A new breed of
examiner is required to examine legacy poor quality tenprints against
incoming tenprint transactions in very short time periods, while maintaining
accuracy. In many instances such as identity verification transactions, or
searches involving un-controlled capture conditions, these tenprint
comparisons can approach or surpass the difficulty of many latent print
comparisons. A growing importance exists toward the achievement of external
board certification such as the IAI tenprint and latent print certification,
and in some cases it is required for employment in these fast-paced and
highly-critical work environments.
With the growing demands being placed on the federal government to defend
the country and protect the security of US citizens, you can expect to
continue to see privatization of many traditionally law enforcement duties
such as latent and tenprint examination. In many cases, the pay for these
positions is much higher than in the government sector. For example, a
private latent print examiner can expect to make 70K – 100K in the
continental U.S., or upwards of 200K for work overseas. In addition, a
tenprint examiner employed in the private sector for federal contract work
can expect $25 - $35 an hour (50K – 70K per year with benefits). For more
information on in-country as well as overseas federal contract
opportunities, send a resume to
A natural response to this shifting paradigm is to rapidly adopt these
evolving concepts into the traditional law enforcement setting. For some
things this might be beneficial. For example, a department considering how
to search all cold cases in AFIS might consider this a nearly impossible
challenge. However, if the process is broken down into steps, it is easy to
see how automation could help. Scanning a large volume of similar sized
items could be automated to some degree, with entry of identifying
information as the image name. Those images could be scanned by algorithms
that recognize the presence of fingerprint ridge detail and copy just that
area of detail to another image with an appended file-name. These secondary
images could be formatted into an automated AFIS searches based on the
file-name, and ingested during off-hours as LFIS 360 degree wide-open
non-ULF-registered searches. Results could be examined in batch mode sorted
by score to find “low-hanging fruit”, and they could be re-oriented,
manually encoded, and re-searched as non-registered transactions by interns,
trainees, or tenprint examiners as
a second layer of "low hanging fruit", and finally unidentified impressions
can be reviewed, re-searched and registered by latent
print examiners. With this business process, very little time is spent by
latent print examiners while maximizing the potential of AFIS to assist in
solving cold cases that would otherwise involve latent lifts that sit in a file cabinet, un-worked.
However, other aspects of military response to latent searching might be
more harmful than good if applied to local law enforcement. For example,
latent identifications on the rap sheet would mean much less when the ULF
consists of a variety of impressions, some of which undoubtedly belong to
officers and crime scene technicians who simply forgot to put on gloves. To
date, the military has done a good job of populating ULF’s with only
probative latent prints. And similar to law enforcement, all matches are
vetted through the intelligence process before being acted upon.
As we move toward the future, look for new technology that will help
automate the entire law enforcement process, from front-end automated
forensic capabilities, to more robust search capabilities, all the way
through to better tools to evaluate information and establish investigative
links. As a forensic latent print examiner, realize that you sit right in
the middle of this world and have the best opportunity to provide
suggestions for improved business and system processes. These improvements
have the capability of more efficiently reducing your backlog, solving cold
cases, and ultimately making your community a safer place to live and work.
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
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Until next Monday morning, don't work too hard or too little.
Have a GREAT week!