U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Human Factors in Latent Print Examination - Panel Discussion at the 2011 NIJ Conference

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 2011
9 pages
This is a video and transcript of a panel presentation at the 2011 NIJ Conference that discusses the work of a group established by the National Institute of Justice's (NIJ's) National Institute of Standards and Technology Law Enforcement Standards Office to conduct a scientific assessment of the effects of human factors on forensic latent print analysis, with the goal of recommending strategies for improving its practices and reduce the likelihood of errors.
Melissa Taylor - Program Manager, Office of Law Enforcement Standards, National Institute of Standards and Technology - notes that the central question addressed by the working group is "What are the things that prevent an examiner from achieving excellence?" Deborah Boehm-Davis, Professor at George Mason University, Provides examples to show how a procedure that has proven effective can fail to note variables that can change outcomes in the course of repetitive use of a particular technique. In the case of matching latent fingerprints there are standards and practices followed by examiners that generally yield accurate results; however, there are human factors that can change outcomes. Because of human factors that can influence outcomes, it is imperative that these human factors be identified and managed through training so that properly trained examiners make the same judgments when deciding whether two sets of fingerprints match. Melissa Gische - Physical Scientist, Latent Print Operations Unit, FBI Laboratory - discusses the identification of the various decisionmaking points in the examination process where particular human factors are operative. These are the points that the working group will address in attempting to minimize mistakes due to human factors in the examiner's decisionmaking.

Date Published: June 1, 2011