Fingerprinting Basics, Essay Example

Pages: 1

Words: 365

Essay

Fingerprinting isn’t what it used to be. Long taken as the defining, infallible tool in establishing an individual’s link to criminal evidence or the scene of the crime, it has become a suspect itself, facing various charges of fraudulent assumptions, technical incompetence in the field and lab, and negligent complicity in the conviction of the innocent (Cole, 2001).

The science is based on three basic ridge patterns found on human fingers: arches, loops, and whorls, and the presumption of their individual uniqueness. Arches are the rarest, at 5% of the population; whorls are next, with 30% – 35%; and  loops are most common, with 60% – 65% (Lewis, 2005). These patterns are presented in three different forms found at crime scenes: latent (formed by oil and sweat, and thus invisible without a detection toolkit); visible (made by blood, grease, powder, etc.); and plastic (molded) prints, found in mud, soap, wax, etc. Prints are either rolled off of each finger individually; or taken flat (or slap) from the right and left four fingers simultaneously, followed by the two thumbs, ensuring sequence accuracy.

With the growth of computer power, networks, and interconnected databases, the shortcomings of human fingerprint-interpreters were revealed. The FBI’s Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) now uses various camera-systems, certified by the FBI and available nationally and locally, as part of its Live Scan process. It photographs fingerprints electronically and enters them into the IAFIS database, along with mug shots and various physical characteristic (tattoos, scars) and parameters (height, weight, etc.) (“The FBI”).     Just as Live Scan replaced the traditional system of using ink to literally print a suspect’s finger onto a sheet of paper (such prints are no longer accepted by the FBI), the IAFIS is itself in the process of expanding its biometric capabilities with facial recognition software, iris scans, photo enhancements, palm-print scanning and DNA identification. The problem is to balance intrusive mass biometric data-collection with the benefits of  incontestable individual convictions.

References

Cole, S. (2001, May 13). The Way We Live Now: 5-13-01; The Myth of Fingerprints. New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2001/05/13/magazine/the-way-we-live-now-5-13-01-the-myth-of-fingerprints.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm

Lewis, S. (2005, June 13). Fingerprinting: Basic Principles. Retrieved from http://bcs.deakin.edu.au/bcs_courses/forensic/Chemical Detective/basic principles_fingerprints.htm

The FBI: Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/fingerprints_biometrics/iafis/iafis

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