This online forum (audio and slides) - co-sponsored by the Ash Center's Government Innovators Network and the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) - consists of panel presentations on the barriers to maximizing the usefulness of fingerprints, qualifications for a good fingerprint analyst, ways to improve the sharing of the technology of an automated fingerprint information system (AFIS), and emerging practical techniques and improvements.
The first presentation notes increasing legal challenges to the reliability of a number of forensic practices, including fingerprint analysis. Events that have tended to undermine the legitimacy of fingerprint analysis and identifications include documented misidentifications using fingerprints, intense media scrutiny of fingerprint analysis, the National Academy of Science's Forensic Sciences Committee's holding of hearings on the legitimacy of fingerprint analysis, and defense attorneys' increased focus on the reliability of fingerprint-based identifications. Attention is also given to the standards by which judges are determining whether fingerprint analysis is an established science. Implications are drawn for the qualifications and training of fingerprint analysts, so as to increase the reliability of fingerprint evidence. A second presentation reviews the NIJ-sponsored grants that have focused on aspects of the scientific basis for and techniques of comparing fingerprint sets. A third presentation identifies barriers to maximizing the usefulness of fingerprints, with attention to standards for each phase of the investigative procedure. Limitations of some AFIS technology and procedures also impair matching procedures and the usefulness of fingerprints. The online question-and-answer session is included.
Date Published: May 1, 2007