Breaking NEWz you can UzE...
compiled by Jon Stimac
45 Years Later, Man Claimed Fugitive
- Jul 16, 2006 ...prosecutors say fingerprints match those
of the escaped convict...
MSPs to View Secret McKie Report
BBC NEWS, UK
- Jul 12, 2006
...part of a secret report on the McKie fingerprint
case is to be handed over to an inquiry...
Fingerprints and Handwriting the Focus of Testimony
SOUTH BEND TRIBUNE, IN
- Jul 11, 2006
...prosecutors are trying to establish fingerprints and
partial palm print were found on a loading dock door...
Fingerprints Led to Arrest in Home Invasion
GLOBE, MA - Jul 10, 2006 ...fingerprints were then matched
to those found on the window of the home...
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Chemical Structure of Ardrox
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UPDATES ON CLPEX.com
No major updates this week
Interesting new website:
"Let your fingers do the painting
with DNA11's new
FingerPrints. From the makers of DNA art, comes more art based on
your identity. You send life-sized fingerprints (via a kit), they send you
back a Giclee print with your prints enlarged 4000% on canvas.
we remembered Ashley Crooker, friend of the
at the Wikipedia (the online free encyclopedia) entry for "Fingerprint".
It is good as experts to know what people read when they search for online
information about our discipline. There are multiple links within the
website version of the entry, so you are encouraged to visit wikipedia.org
and view the definition and accompanying links from there.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
This article is about human fingerprints. See also Fingerprint
A fingerprint is an impression normally made by ink or contaminants
transferred from the peaks of friction skin ridges to a relatively smooth
surface such as a fingerprint card. These ridges are sometimes known as
"dermal ridges" or "dermal papillae". The term fingerprint normally refers
to impressions transferred from the pad on the last joint of fingers and
thumbs, though fingerprint cards also typically record portions of lower
joint areas of the fingers (which are also used to effect identifications).
Friction skin ridges are not unique to humans, however, and some species of
primate also have friction skin ridges on "fingers" and paws in
configurations sometimes similar to human friction ridge skin. Some New
World monkeys also have friction ridge skin on their tails, possibly
associated with use of their tails for gripping during climbing, and the
knuckle-walking great apes have friction ridge skin on the dorsal surfaces
of their fingers. Friction skin ridges on humans are commonly believed to
provide traction for grasping objects. In the over 100 years that
fingerprints have been examined and compared, no two areas of friction ridge
skin on any two fingers or palms (including between identical twins) have
been found to have the same friction ridge characteristics.
Image: The tip of a finger showing the fingerprint.
Image: The same fingerprint as it would be detected on a surface.
1 Fingerprint identification
2 Latent prints
3 Patent prints
4 Plastic prints
5 Classifying fingerprints
7 Reliability of fingerprinting as an identification method
7.1 Brandon Mayfield
7.2 Shirley McKie
7.3 Stephan Cowans
7.4 William West
9 US fingerprint databases
10 Fingerprint compression
11 Fingerprint locks
12 See also
13 External links
14 News stories
Fingerprint identification (sometimes referred to as dactyloscopy) is the
process of comparing questioned and known friction skin ridge impressions
(see Minutiae) from fingers, palms, and toes to determine if the impressions
are from the same finger (or palm, toe, etc.). The flexibility of friction
ridge skin means that no two finger or palm prints are ever exactly alike
(never identical in every detail), even two impressions recorded immediately
after each other. Fingerprint identification (also referred to as
individualization) occurs when an expert (or an expert computer system
operating under threshold scoring rules) determines that two friction ridge
impressions originated from the same finger or palm (or toe, sole) to the
exclusion of all others.
Although the word latent means hidden or invisible, in modern usage for
forensic science the term latent prints means any chance or accidental
impression left by friction ridge skin on a surface, regardless of whether
it is visible or invisible at the time of deposition. Electronic, chemical
and physical processing techniques permit visualization of invisible latent
print residue whether it is from natural secretions of the eccrine glands
present on friction ridge skin (which produce palmar sweat, but no oils), or
whether the impression is in a contaminate such as oil, blood, paint, ink,
These are prints which are obvious to the human eye and are caused by a
transfer of foreign material on the finger, onto a surface. Because they are
already visible they need no enhancement, and are photographed instead of
being lifted. Where possible, the item containing the print is taken away
and looked at by forensic scientists.
A plastic print is a friction ridge impression from a finger or palm (or
toe/foot) deposited in a material that retains the shape of the ridge
detail. Commonly encountered examples are melted candle wax, putty removed
from the perimeter of window panes and thick grease deposits on car parts.
Such prints are already visible and need no enhancement, but investigators
must not overlook the potential that invisible latent prints deposited by
accomplices may also be on such surfaces. After photographically recording
such prints, attempts should be made to visualize other non-plastic
impressions deposited in natural finger/palm secretions (eccrine gland
secretions) or contaminates.
There are three basic fingerprint patterns: Arch, Loop and Whorl. There are
also more complex classification systems that further break down patterns to
plain arches or tented arches. Loops may be radial or ulnar. Whorls also
have sub-group classifications including plain whorls, accidental whorls,
double loop whorls, and central pocket loop whorls.
There is no clear date at which fingerprinting was first used. However,
significant modern dates documenting the use of fingerprints for positive
identification are as follows:
1823: Jan Evangelista Purkyne, a professor of anatomy at the University of
Breslau, published his thesis discussing 9 fingerprint patterns, but he did
not mention the use of fingerprints to identify persons.
1880: The Scot Dr Henry Faulds published his first paper on the subject in
the scientific journal Nature in
1880. Returning to the UK in 1886, he offered the concept to the
Metropolitan Police in London but was dismissed.
1892: Sir Francis Galton published a detailed statistical model of
fingerprint analysis and identification and encouraged its use in forensic
science in his book Finger Prints.
1892: Juan Vucetich, an Argentine police officer who had been studying
Galton pattern types for a year, made the first criminal fingerprint
identification. He successfully proved Francisca Rojas guilty of having
murdered after showing that the bloody fingerprint found at the crime scene
was hers, and could only be hers.
1897: World's first Fingerprint Bureau opens in Calcutta (now Kolkata) India
after the Council of the Governor General approved a committee report (on 12
June 1897) that fingerprints should be used for classification of criminal
records. Working in the Calcutta Anthropometric Bureau (before it became the
Fingerprint Bureau) were Azizul Haque and Hem Chandra Bose. Haque and Bose
are the Indian fingerprint experts credited with primary development of the
fingerprint classification system eventually named for their supervisor, Sir
Edward Richard Henry.
1901: The first United Kingdom Fingerprint Bureau was founded in Scotland
Yard. The Henry Classification System, devised by Sir Edward Richard Henry
with the help of Haque and Bose, was accepted in England and Wales.
1902: Dr. Henry P. DeForrest used fingerprinting in the New York Civil
Reliability of fingerprinting as an identification method
A member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police demonstrates the location of
ridge endings, bifurcations and dots. Fingerprints collected at a
crime scene, or on items of evidence from a crime, can be used in forensic
science to identify suspects, victims and other persons who touched a
surface. Fingerprint identification emerged as an important system within
police agencies in the late 19th century, when it replaced anthropometric
measurements as a more reliable method for identifying persons having a
prior record, often under an alias name, in a criminal record repository.
Fingerprint identification was the first forensic discipline (in 1977) to
formally institute a professional certification program for individual
experts, including a procedure for decertifying those making errors. Other
forensic disciplines later followed suit in establishing certification
programs whereby certification could be revoked for error.
Fingerprint identification effects far more positive identifications of
persons worldwide daily than any other human identification procedure. The
American federal government alone effects positive identification of over
70,000 persons most days, including US Visit (Department of Homeland
Security) and Federal Bureau of Investigation fingerprint activities. A
large percentage of the identifications (approximately 92% of US Visit
identifications) are effected in a lights-out (no human involved) computer
identification process with 100% accuracy based on only two fingerprints.
The fingerprint community recognizes two types of errors. A missed
identification, or false negative, occurs when a latent print that should
have been identified with the suspect was not. The second is an erroneous
identification, where the latent print is attributed to someone other than
the source. This is considered the more serious of the errors. Other errors
can include transcript errors in the documentation relating to the report of
latent print findings.
As in any field of human endeavor, errors in fingerprint identifications can
and do occur. Such errors in fingerprint identification are so rare that
when they occur, they normally make headlines worldwide. One of the most
famous fingerprint identification mistakes was made by the FBI Laboratory in
2004. Although the FBI Laboratory had previously made about one latent
fingerprint identification error each eleven years, the 2004 error was the
first instance in the 84 years of the FBI Laboratory's operation when an
error was not discovered and corrected before it caused an innocent person
to be jailed. Following the discovery of the error, the FBI Laboratory
underwent both internal and external review as well as an investigation by
the Office of Inspector General. The decision of the review panels as well
as the OIG was that fingerprint analysis was reliable and the incident in
question had resulted from practitioner error.
However, the very nature of critical review at such agencies as the FBI and
many law enforcement agencies precludes the identification of most
fingerprint errors. Some notable errors are listed below. Critics of the
science have recently referred to an FBI publication entitled "The Science
of Fingerprints" which mentions fingerprints as "infallible." However, this
publication deals with fingerprint classification and not fingerprint
In addition, critics of the fingerprint science have often compared it to
the probability-based examinations in the DNA field. While DNA samples may
be highly conserved, latent fingerprints are subject to the pliability of
skin when contacting a surface. Thus, any statistical model to accurately
quantify the likelihood of a fingerprint match is highly ineffectual.
Further, critics have claimed that the fingerprint science is resistent to
peer review or general accountability in the scientific community. In
actuality, much of the scientific community has failed to take an interest
in fingerprint science. This fact is evident in the lack of widespread
research at universities as well as private and public research facilities.
Below are several noteworthy examples of fingerprint errors:
A case of erroneous identification: Brandon Mayfield is an Oregon lawyer who
was identified as a participant in the Madrid bombing based on a fingerprint
match by the FBI. The FBI Latent Print Unit ran the print collected in
Madrid and reported a match against one of 20 fingerprint candidates
returned in a search response from their Integrated Automated Fingerprint
Identification (IAFIS) system. The FBI initially called the match "100
percent positive" and an "absolutely incontrovertible match". The Spanish
National Police examiners concluded the prints did not match Mayfield and
they eventually identified another man who matched the prints. The FBI
immediately acknowledged they were in error and he was released from
custody. In January of 2006, a U. S. Justice Department report was released
which faulted the FBI for sloppy work but exonerated them of more serious
allegations. The report also found that the erroneous identification was due
to misapplication of the identification methodology by the examiners
involved and not a reflection of the reliability of fingerprint evidence.
A case of erroneous identification: Shirley McKie was a policewoman in 1997
when she was accused of leaving her thumb print inside a house in
Kilmarnock, Scotland where Marion Ross had been murdered. Although PC McKie
denied having been inside the house, she was arrested in a dawn raid the
following year and charged with perjury. The only evidence was the thumb
print allegedly found at the murder scene. Two American experts testified on
her behalf at her trial in May 1999 and she was found not guilty. The
Scottish Criminal Record Office (SCRO) never admitted a mistake.
On February 7, 2006, McKie was awarded £750,000 in compensation from the
Scottish Executive and the SCRO. Controversy continues to surround the
McKie case with calls for the resignations of Scottish ministers and for
either a public or a judicial inquiry into the matter.
A case of erroneous identification: Stephan Cowans was convicted of
attempted murder in 1997 after he was accused of the shooting of a police
officer while fleeing a robbery in Roxbury, Massachusetts. He was implicated
in the crime by the testimony of two witnesses, one of which was the victim.
The other evidence was a fingerprint on a glass mug that the assailant drank
water from, and experts testified that the fingerprint belonged to him. He
was found guilty and sent to prison with a sentence of 35 years. While in
prison he earned money cleaning up biohazards to accrue enough money to have
the evidence tested for DNA. The DNA did not match his, he had already
served six years in prison before he was released.
A story that some regard as apocryphal circulates about events occurring in
the early 20th century when a man was spotted in the incoming prisoner line
at the U.S. Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas by a guard who recognized
him and thought he was already in the prison population. Upon examination,
the incoming prisoner claimed to be named Will West, while the existing
prisoner was named William West. According to their Bertillon measurements,
they were essentially indistinguishable. Only their fingerprints could
readily identify them, and the Bertillon Method was discredited.
There is evidence that men named Will and William West were both imprisoned
in the Federal Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas, between 1903 and 1909.
However, the details of the case are suspicious, especially since they
differ between retellings, and the story did not appear in print until 1918.
Today, people familiar with the story differ on whether the story was
accurate, a case of people (possibly separated twins) who bore a striking
resemblance, a case of known twins, or complete fiction. The story of Will
West is mentioned on page 167 of Forensic Uses of Digital Imaging by John C.
Russ, with mug shots of "the two Will Wests" on page 168.
Friction ridge skin present on the soles of the feet and toes (plantar
surfaces) is as unique as ridge detail on the fingers and palms (palmar
surfaces). When recovered at crime scenes or on items of evidence, sole and
toe impressions are used in the same manner as finger and palm prints to
effect identifications. Footprint (toe and sole friction ridge skin)
evidence has been admitted in US courts since 1934 (People v. Les, 267
Michigan 648, 255 NW 407).
Footprints of infants, along with thumb or index finger prints of mothers,
are still commonly recorded in hospitals to assist in verifying the identity
of infants. Often, the only identifiable ridge detail in such impressions is
from the large toe or adjacent to the large toe, due to the difficulty of
recording such fine detail. When legible ridge detail is lacking, DNA is
normally effective (except in instances of chimaerism) for indirectly
identifying infants by confirming maternity and paternity of an infant's
It is not uncommon for military records of flight personnel to include bare
foot inked impressions. Friction ridge skin protected inside flight boots
tends to survive the trauma of a plane crash (and accompanying fire) better
than fingers. Even though the U.S. Armed Forces DNA Identification
Laboratory (AFDIL) stores refrigerated DNA samples from all current active
duty and reserve personnel, almost all casualty identifications are effected
using fingerprints from military ID card records (live scan fingerprints are
recorded at the time such cards are issued). When friction ridge skin is not
available from deceased military personnel, DNA and dental records are used
to confirm identity.
US fingerprint databases
The FBI manages a fingerprint identification system and database called
IAFIS, which currently holds the fingerprints and criminal records of over
fifty-one million criminal record subjects, and over 1.5 million civil
(non-criminal) fingerprint records. US Visit currently holds a repository of
over 50 million persons, primarily in the form of two-finger records (by
2008, US Visit is transforming to a system recording FBI-standard tenprint
Most American law enforcement agencies use Wavelet Scalar Quantization (WSQ),
a wavelet-based system for efficient storage of compressed fingerprint
images at 500 pixels per inch (ppi). WSQ was developed by the FBI, the Los
Alamos National Lab, and the National Institute for Standards and Technology
(NIST). For fingerprints recorded at 1000 ppi spatial resolution, law
enforcement (including the FBI) uses JPEG 2000 instead of WSQ.
In the 2000s, electronic fingerprint readers have been introduced for
security applications such as identification of computer users (log-in
authentication). However, early devices have been discovered to be
vulnerable to quite simple methods of deception, such as fake fingerprints
cast in gels. In 2006, fingerprint sensors gained popularity in the notebook
PC market. Built-in sensors in ThinkPads, VAIO laptops, and others also
double as motion detectors for document scrolling, like the scroll wheel.
New York State Police Troop C scandal
International Association for Identification - World's largest and oldest
professional organization for fingerprint experts.
Latent Print Certification Board - International Roster of Certified
The Fingerprint Society - Society for Fingerprint Examiners.
Scientific Working Group on Friction Ridge Analysis, Study and Technology -
US national working group on fingerprint examination.
Latent Print Examination
Fingerprint Processing Guide
Online Fingerprint Dictionary - Definitions, references, and more.
Online Fingerprint Reference Search Engine
Biometrics Research Lab
Galton's Finger Prints
Henry, Faulds, and Herschel's works on fingerprints
Fingerprints.tk - Comprehensive site about fingerprints.
How to fake fingerprints
Will West as fable
Fingerprint research and evaluation at the US National Institute of
Standards and Technology
Fingerprint pattern distribution statistics
Complete Latent Print Examination
Do fingerprints lie? - The New Yorker
New York Times; "Can Prints Lie? Yes, Man Finds To His Dismay. In front of
the immigration judge, the tall, muscular man began to weep. No, he had
patiently tried to explain, he was not Leo Rosario, a drug dealer and a
prime candidate for deportation. He was telling the truth. He was Rene Ramon
Sanchez, an auto-body worker and merengue ..."
New York Times; July 30, 1993; "Police Investigation Supervisor Admits
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