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Latent print comparison and examiner conclusions: A field analysis of case processing in one crime laboratory

Journal: Forensic Science International
Published: 2021
Primary Author: Brett O. Gardner
Secondary Authors: Sharon Kelley, Maddisen Neuman
Research Area: Latent Print

Scholarship on the latent print comparison process has expanded in recent years, responsive to the call for rigorous research by scholarly groups (e.g., National Academy of Sciences, 2009; President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, 2016). Important to the task of ultimately improving accuracy, consistency, and efficiency in the field is understanding different workflows and case outcomes. The current study describes the casework completed by a latent print unit in a large laboratory during one calendar year (2018), including a unique workflow that involves Preliminary AFIS Associations reported out as investigative leads. Approximately 45% of all examined prints were deemed to be of sufficient quality to enter into AFIS, and 22% of AFIS entries resulted in potential identifications. But examiner conclusions and AFIS outcomes (across three AFIS databases) varied according to case details, print source, and AFIS database. Moreover, examiners differed in case processing, sufficiency determinations, and AFIS conclusions. Results are discussed with respect to implications for future research (e.g., comparing these data to case processing data for other laboratories) and ultimately improving the practice of latent print examination.

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