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How do latent print examiners perceive proficiency testing? An analysis of examiner perceptions, performance, and print quality

Journal: Science & Justice
Published: 2020
Primary Author: Sharon Kelley
Secondary Authors: Brett Gardner, Daniel C.Murrie, Karen D.H.Pan, Karen Kafadar
Research Area: Latent Print

Proficiency testing has the potential to serve several important purposes for crime laboratories and forensic science disciplines. Scholars and other stakeholders, however, have criticized standard proficiency testing procedures since their implementation in laboratories across the United States. Specifically, many experts label current proficiency tests as non-representative of actual casework, at least in part because they are not sufficiently challenging (e.g., [1], [2], [3], [4]. In the current study, we surveyed latent print examiners (n = 322) after they completed a Collaborative Testing Services proficiency test about their perceptions of test items. We also evaluated respondents’ test performance and used a quality metric algorithm (LQMetrics) to obtain objective indicators of print quality on the test. Results were generally consistent with experts’ concerns about proficiency testing. The low observed error rate, examiner perceptions of relative ease, and high objective print quality metrics together suggest that latent print proficiency testing is not especially challenging. Further, examiners indicated that the test items that most closely resembled real-world casework were also the most difficult and contained prints of the lowest quality. Study findings suggest that including prints of lower quality may increase both the difficulty and representativeness of proficiency testing in latent print examination.

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