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How Reliable Are Latent Fingerprint Examiners?

NCJ Number
Date Published
September 2015
1 page
This video and accompanying transcript cover a presentation at one of the U.S. Justice Department's "Research for the Real World" seminars, in which Brian Cerchiai (a fingerprint examiner for the Miami-Dade Police Department) reports on research that examined the reliability of the conclusions of latent fingerprint examiners regarding whether two sets of fingerprints match one another.
The study assessed the accuracy of examiner decisions when the ACE (ACE-V) verification process was used. Under this examination procedure, the findings of the initial examiner are then submitted to a second examiner, who, after conducting a thorough analysis, reports on whether he/she agrees, disagrees, or is inconclusive regarding the verification of the initial examiner's conclusion. The research determined that when this ACE process is strictly followed, the false-positive rate of the examinations was zero (no incorrect determination of a match was found after the verification). On the other hand, when an initial examination did not include a subsequent fresh analysis by another examiner, false-positives occurred in 3 percent of these cases. The research had 13 volunteers leave just over 2,000 fingerprints on different objects that were round, flat, or smooth. They were developed with black powder and tape lifts. A total of 109 latent examiners were given the unknown fingerprints or palm prints to examine and compare to three known sources.

Date Published: September 1, 2015