UPDATES ON CLPEX.com
Updated the Close Calls page with a new close
IAI September Update, by Joe Polski:
Tom Fiorenza, a former Sergeant-at-Arms of the IAI died on August 15, 2006.
Tom was the longest serving Sergeant-at-Arms in the history of the IAI,
holding that position from 1967 to 1997. As he completed his last year as
Sergeant-at-Arms, the Board conferred the title of Sergeant-at-Arms Emeritus
on Tom. I remember the first time I met Tom during the 1975 Conference in
Key Biscayne, Florida. He was an accomplished trumpet player and could be
counted on to bring his instrument and join in with any musical
entertainment that might occur during the conference. In fact, he was known
to keep hotel guests awake from time to time as he tooted his horn in his
hotel room. Tom was old school and not shy about voicing his opinion on
matters that affected the membership of the association. He could be
counted on to make the business meetings of the IAI very interesting
indeed. Our condolences to Tom’s family.
FBI CJIS Notice
This note was received from Cindy Johnston of the Latent Technology
Development Team at the FBI’s CJIS Division. She requested that it be
disseminated throughout the IAI organization.
Attention: CJIS Systems Officers and
State Identification Bureaus, please forward this notification to all
Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) latent users
within your area of responsibility.
The FBI has released Version
3.30 of the Universal Latent Workstation (ULW) software.
In an effort to ensure that all agencies with remote latent access to the
IAFIS are using the correct software version, the Federal Bureau of
Investigation, Criminal Justice Information Services Division, Criminal
Information and Transition Unit (CITU) Regional Representatives will send
software to their respective latent users within the next few weeks. If you
do not receive a copy of the ULW Version 3.30 software, contact your CITU
Hit of the Year
functionality does not provide the capability for latent users to record an
identification made based on the candidate list returned in the IAFIS latent
search response. Therefore, the CJIS Division and the law enforcement
community are not fully aware of the number of identifications made as a
result of latent searches against the IAFIS.
The law enforcement community has expressed great interest in learning the
details of cases solved due to latent fingerprint identifications. While
law enforcement agencies occasionally report success stories such as major
cases and cold cases that have been solved due to IAFIS latent services,
there is no formal process in place to log and promote this success.
Therefore, in an effort to share latent success stories throughout the law
enforcement community and increase the awareness of IAFIS latent service
capabilities, the Latent Technology Development Team (LTDT) is requesting
that these success stories be forwarded to the LTDT wherein a designated
group of individuals will review and elect one case as the latent "Hit of
This "Hit of the Year" will be published in various articles, such as the
Law Enforcement Bulletin, CJIS Link, Forensic Journal, etc., and will also
be announced during the CJIS Advisory Policy Board meetings and
International Association for Identification (IAI) conferences.
Please email your IAFIS latent success stories to
We reviewed an FBI announcement that most
routine latent print casework by the FBI Laboratory Division will be
suspended due to efforts in the Global War on Terror.
Kathy Saviers brings us information on the IAI Latent Print Certification
Latent Print Certification Process
Everything You Wanted to Know, But Were Afraid to Ask
by Kathy Saviers, CLPE, Forensic Specialist
Marion County Sheriff's Department
Re-printed with minor modifications and permission from the Summer, 2006
edition of THE EXAMINER, the publication of the Pacific North West Division,
International Association for Identification:
The test for the IAI Latent
Print Certification program can be very intimidating, mostly because you
don’t know much about it. I am going to explain when to apply for the test
and the review process of the application. I will offer suggestions on how
to prepare for the test and some strategies for taking the test. I took the
test in 1985 and some things have changed since I took it. Over the years, I
have spoken to people who have taken the test under the more various
changing requirements and I will include that information.
Reasons for Taking the Certification Exam
• Improve your credibility in court and on the job.
• Improve your marketability for jobs and/or promotions. Some agencies
require certification for employment or promotion.
• See monetary increases. Some agencies pay more for certified examiners.
• Forces you to study and practice towards excellence. You will become a
• Personal satisfaction of having submitted yourself for testing by the only
certifying body for Latent Print Examiners.
A Brief History
The IAI started this program in the 1970s. It was a way to professionalize
those working in the latent print field. In the beginning, there was a
grandfather period where people could be certified without taking the exam.
There has been some criticism about this over the years, that perhaps some
of those “grandfathered” in were not well qualified. It is a moot point now,
as I suspect all those who were certified under the grandfather clause are
no longer working in the field.
The founding Board also designed long-term changes in the program to require
increased levels of college, again to professionalize the field of latent
prints comparisons. The requirements now allow for some years of experience
to be considered in lieu of a full four-year college degree. You can have a
bachelor’s degree and a few years of experience, or an associate of arts
degree with more years of work experience, or a high school diploma with
many more years of experience. See the IAI web site (www.theiai.org) to read
the current requirements and to obtain an application.
When to Apply for the Test
First, you must meet the qualifications to apply. Having many years on the
job is no guarantee that you will pass. If you have the proper training and
look at latent prints every day or at least a few times a week, you will
probably do okay. I had about ten years on the job but didn’t look at latent
prints every day or even every week. I took four hours to complete the
comparison portion of the test. I proctored a test for someone with just
three years on the job, and she completed the comparison portion in one
hour, six minutes. She looked at a lot more latent prints than I did on a
Once you send in your application, there are deadlines all along the way.
Your application is reviewed first by the IAI Latent Print Certification
Board. They will send a copy of your application (that is why you send the
original and one copy) to the PNWDIAI Certification Committee where someone
who probably knows you will review it. They must complete the review within
a certain amount of time. The reviews and mailing the papers back and forth
can take 4-6 weeks. Once your application is approved, you have 90 days in
which to take the test. A Proctor will contact you to make the appointment.
Plan your life so this 90-day window does not fall during certain parts of
the year where you will be extra busy with holidays or vacations or other
work such as term papers or a thesis for school. Sending in your application
in September may mean that your 90-day window will be November, December and
January. With the stress of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day, it
might be a bad choice to take the test during this time.
The Parts of the Test
When I took the test, there were three parts: classify 15 fingerprint cards
using the Henry System within thirty minutes; answer 200 true-false and
multiple choice questions within two hours; and, compare 15 latent prints to
8-12 sets (I don’t remember exactly how many of each) of fingerprint cards
and palm print cards within four hours, successfully identifying 12 of the
15 latent prints. Any leftover time from one section could not be used in
A few years later, the test was changed to allow the use of the entire time
of six and one-half hours without restricting portions to each section. If
you only used 20 minutes to classify the fingerprint cards and one hour to
answer the questions, you can now use the extra time in the comparison
Currently, the test is eight hours long and, again, the sections are not
time-restricted. Plus, there is no Henry Classification, but pattern
recognition on several fingerprints. When I took the test, the true-false
and multiple choice sections had questions on Henry Classification rules,
NCIC classification rules, history, chemical processing and theory of
comparison. I am sure the classification rules are gone and the chemical
processing and theories have been updated.
Preparing for the Test
DISCLAIMER: Even if you follow all my suggestions, you may or may not pass
the examination. These are only suggestions and some techniques that worked
Read the study material. Remember that the books may have techniques that
you don’t do but there may be questions about them on the test. Talk to
others who have recently taken the test to find out what is on the test.
They may have some tips to share so you can study more effectively.
Practice comparisons, against the clock, on known matches. You might borrow
CTS tests from an agency that uses them, if your agency does not, or create
or have someone else create practice exams. You might ask your Human
Resources department or an HR from another agency to let you practice on
their comparison exams, assuming they have any. You will probably have to go
to that agency, as they will probably not allow their tests to leave their
location. Ask your unit to let you have all the latent print comparisons, or
at least, let you see them all.
If you are not good with latent palm prints, take a class or talk to someone
who has to learn the secrets and shortcuts to determining orientation and
The latent prints and fingerprint cards used on the test are photographs and
not actual dusted latent prints or original inked fingerprint cards. Even
when I took the test twenty years ago, I had no difficultly in being able to
clearly see the ridges on the photographs.
I think the best suggestion I can give you is to change your mindset. This
is not casework, not evidence where you don’t know if the latent prints
belong to anyone in your stack of fingerprint cards or to a victim. It is
test of your skills where all the latent prints are identifications to the
fingers on these fingerprint cards. The latent prints all have
identifications; you just have to find them.
Location, Location, Location
You need to be comfortable when taking the test to reduce a bit of the
stress. You might pick your office because the desk lamp is bright and the
chair is comfortable and familiar. Or, you might not want to be in your
office if it is a 24/7 office where it might be noisy, there might be
interruptions or having people around staring at you would be intimidating.
If your office is a M-F 8-5 operation, consider getting permission from your
supervisor to take the test on a Saturday or Sunday (with Proctor consent of
course). There is the option of taking the test at an annual IAI division
training conference, if approved by your proctor. If you plan to take the
test at the conference, bring your own lamp. Have a good lamp. Bring one
with you if you are taking the test somewhere else besides your own desk.
I took my test at my house. When I was on the certification committee, I
proctored one test in someone’s apartment, five tests at my agency for folks
from another agency and two tests at an agency for an applicant from that
agency and one from another agency. Proctors try to be flexible.
There are the three parts and you may take them in any order that you want,
even switching back and forth between sections. I suggest that you do the
pattern recognition and the questions sections first to be done with them
and then, devote the rest of the time to the comparison section. About time,
you are allowed breaks and a lunch and these breaks do not count against
your eight hours.
Everyone wants you to pass the test so pick the place where you will be most
comfortable, least distracted and ready to work.
The Proctor giving you the test will most likely be someone from a regional
IAI certification committee. On rare occasions, when there is no committee
member near you, it may be permitted for other arrangements to be made. The
people who proctor the exams have gone through the exact same thing you are
going through. They want you to pass.
Use your one or two magnifiers and have a ridge counter or two. You might
want to have a dome magnifier or a head magnifier to help sort through the
cards. But, don’t waste time switching back and forth between varieties of
Separate the fingerprint cards from the palm print cards. Look over the
latent prints and separate those into stacks of possible fingerprints and
possible palm prints. You could be wrong in your initial evaluation. Lay out
the fingerprint cards into two or three overlapping stacks where you can see
the flat impressions on each card.
The Proctor will have the test in a series of envelopes. There will be an
instruction sheet attached and the Proctor will read it you and ask you to
read it yourself. It will explain the time limits and how to fill out the
various parts of the test. The Proctor cannot answer questions about the
test beyond that.
Start the process by comparing the easy latent prints. The easy ones count
the same as the hard ones. If the latent print is a whorl, glance at the
flat impressions on the cards and pull out those that have similar whorls.
Then, put your magnifier on it and do the comparison. If the latent print is
an arch, pull out any cards with arches and so forth. You can eliminate
non-matching patterns on the first analysis.
The Proctor does not look at the contents of the test and does not grade it.
This person will sit with you as a witness to guarantee that there is no
accusation of you cheating. He/she will hand you the unopened test envelopes
and take them back when you are finished or when time is up, whichever is
first. You will break the seals on the test envelopes and re-seal them at
the end. He/she will mail them back to the Secretary of the Latent Print
Use the ACE method. You won’t have the opportunity to have the verification
done by a second examiner. Carefully and accurately write the answers on the
back of the latent print cards. You must make twelve identifications to pass
the comparison section of the examination.
Taking the Test
Eat normally and get a good night’s sleep before the test. If you work a
night shift and want to take the test during the evening because you are
accustomed to that time, arrangements can be made for a Proctor to give you
the test at that time. Don’t take the test in the morning after coming off a
When you finish with your twelve identifications, verify your work. Look at
and compare the latent prints as though you were verifying them for someone
else. Double-check what you wrote down to catch any clerical errors such as,
“right thumb” when you meant to write, “left thumb.” You seal the envelopes
and hand them back to the Proctor.
Pass or No Pass, the Next Steps
If you pass the test, you are required to submit a court transcript with a
latent print charted enlargement. Since many of us don’t go to court often
or cannot easily obtain a copy of a transcript, the Certification Board will
often take mock court video tapes, especially if conducted at a regional IAI
conference by members of the certification committee. Be prepared with a
latent print, rolled fingerprint card and a charted enlargement. They can be
“generic” ones, not necessarily actually evidence.
If you cannot attend a conference for the mock court and you do not have a
court transcript, it may be permitted for you to write your own questions
and answers such as would be done in a courtroom situation. You will need to
get additional details on this from the Chair of the Latent Print
If you do not pass the examination because you did not score high enough,
you may apply again with six months. You will only need to take the
portion(s) you did not pass. However, if you do not pass the comparison
portion of the examination because you did an erroneous identification, you
must wait one year before applying and you will have to take all three
portions of the test again.
If you do not pass the examination, you are not alone. The passing rate is
about 50% each year. I suspect that some of the people who took the test
should not have done so. Their skill level and training was not adequate.
While they have the required amount of work experience in the number of
years, they may not have the availability of latent prints to compare.
Someone working in a large state agency with 24/7 work shifts or at least
lots of evidence to look at will do many more comparisons than someone who
only looks at latent prints a couple of times a month. If it is brought up
in court that you took the test and didn’t pass, compare it to the bar exam.
Not everyone who takes the bar exam passes it the first time. Many people
take the bar exam three or four times before they pass. You just need to be
prepared to the do the best you can on the test.
Your certification is valid for five years. During that time, you need to
take some training to continue to learn and stay current with new processing
techniques, legal issues, and comparison theories. You must complete a
certain number of hours of training to renew your certification. Check the
IAI web site for the current requirements. The regional IAI conferences do
count towards this requirement.
When you apply for renewal, you will be sent a proficiency comparison test.
This will be sent directly to you and no Proctor will be used. You sign a
statement that the work is your own and you did not have any help. When I
took my proficiency test last year, there were five latent prints and three
fingerprint cards. The photographs were high-contrast and sharp. I only wish
casework latent prints were as good.
I encourage every Latent Print Examiner with the required training and
experience to take the certification examination. It is scary and difficult
but when you pass it, you will have a great sense of personal achievement.
Thanks to Jeri Eaton and Darla Shaver for their input in writing this
Feel free to pass The Detail along to other
examiners. This is a free newsletter FOR latent print examiners, BY
latent print examiners.
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