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Posted on Tuesday, May 22, 2001 - 07:36 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only) Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Mr. Jones, Mr. Uhles, et al.,

American aircraft pilots returning home from WWI had training, experience and abilities varying from very skillful to downright dangerous. In an effort to license the skillful pilots and eventually weed out the Barnstormers (some of whom were great and some of whom were dangerously unskilled), the FAA was formed. The hew and cry about, "You are not going to test me..." could be heard from many experienced pilots and it at first looked as if the licensing effort would fail.

As a compromise to launch the FAA licensing program, it was agreed that pilots who could provide some sort of proof that they already knew how to fly would be Grandfathered-in and issued pilot's licenses without testing. The FAA felt that it was better to at least have a program where these Grandfathered pilots could have their license revoked if someone witnessed dangerous habits, than it was to have no licensing program at all.

The FAA program worked and although I heard of an 80 year old barnstormer still flying in central Tennessee in the '70's, I doubt he's still doing it. Everyone now licensed is tested and also given periodic flight checks (small proficiency exams).

The IAI's Latent Print Certification Program was very similar in its birth. I was at the 1977 conference in New Orleans and although imperfect, I voted with the nearly unanimous majority to implement the certification program (the single “nay” vote came from T.O. Bock of Plano, Texas... and he was just kidding).

For decades, I was one of those Grandfathered Certified Latent Print Examiners, that is until I took the full exam in the late 1990's. Recently, I took the renewal examination which is required to be passed by EVERY Certified LP Examiner… even those promised in 1977 that they would never be tested.

In the short span of twenty-four years, the IAI has grown its Certified Latent Print Examiner program into a tool recognized by the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors / Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD/LAB) as desirable for all LP Examiners, and by the FBI Laboratory-sponsored Scientific Working Group on Friction Ridge Analysis, Study and Technology (SWGFAST).

Although four-year college degrees were initially a goal, the program evolved so that years of experience can substitute for years of college as follows:
A Bachelor's Degree plus 3 years basic experience


Experience can be substituted for the Bachelor's Degree requirement at the rate of one year full time experience as a latent print examiner for one year of college credit on the following basis:

An Associate Degree (or documentation of 60 semester hours or 90 quarter hours of college credits) plus 3 years basic experience as required by Section IV plus 2 years full-time experience as a latent print examiner (total 5 years experience) equals Bachelor's Degree requirement.


Three years basic experience plus 4 years full-time experience as a latent print examiner (total 7 years experience) equals Bachelor's Degree requirement
This formula boils down to seven years of study, in some combination, for most folks.

And, the FBI Laboratory-sponsored SWGFAST also concurs with Mr. Jones’ observation that CLPE status is NOT the final word on what and who is an expert. SWGFAST recommends that in addition to IAI Certification, that every Latent Print Examiner participate in proficiency testing yearly.

Next month I complete 30 years of fingerprint work in local police department, state crime lab, and federal fingerprint employment. I have seen very skillful LP Examiners develop lazy or poor work habits, develop bad eyesight as they passed age 40 and refused to get eyeglasses, and in at least one instance hardening of the arteries seemed to contribute to hindering examination skills for an over 50 expert. Annual proficiency testing is very important to monitor professional skills and identify problems which did not exist when an examiner demonstrated initial competency skills through certification testing.

Partially because of observations by critics that the 1995 annual latent print proficiency test from Collaborative Testing Services had a number of apparent erroneous identifications, ASCLD/LAB now has procedures to monitor annual proficiency test errors by examiners in accredited laboratories… including a mechanism to identify which are IAI Certified.

Because such measures where not in place in 1995, there is no way to know how many non-fingerprint experts (trace evidence examiners, document examiners, etc.) made erroneous identifications that year. However, since then the three members of the ASCLD/LAB proficiency review committee (PRC) for Latent Prints has found that IAI Certified LP Examiners almost never make erroneous identifications. What is typically discovered are administrative errors where finger number six was written down instead of finger 1, etc. Though serious and important insofar as casework, these are NOT technical errors or erroneous identifications as defined by SWGFAST.

IAI CLPE status continues to grow in importance. With the introduction of proficiency testing for every CLPE, reduction of college degree requirements, and the near elimination of Henry System Classification (only loop, arch, whorl determination is now made), there are few valid reasons to refuse to throw your hat into the ring and possess one of those pilot’s licenses… which can be taken away if you are witnessed flying dangerously or if you cannot pass your periodic check-ride.

Charlatans will still refuse to participate, and any charlatans Grandfathered-in will find that they no longer need to keep the CLPE status when it comes time for them to be tested for the first time in their lives.

For my friends (like Mr. Jones) who are bona fide experts and do not now find it "necessary" to obtain IAI Certification, perhaps they will consider that the program which has evolved now encompasses much of what they thought should have been present from its beginning. It is not and never will be perfect… but, it can greatly supplement voir dire insofar as insuring professional scientific skills are possessed by LP Examiners.

I urge all genuine Latent Print Examiners to apply for CLPE status. True experts will find the test challenging, but not overly difficult.

--Ed German
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Gary W. Jones
Posted on Tuesday, May 22, 2001 - 03:02 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only) Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Dear Mr. Uhles and Mr. German:

Yes, misrepresentations of latent print identifications do exist; the David Harding case in New York a few years ago is an example. However, they are very few and far between. Very few latent print professionals are going to risk imprisonment, loss of a job and/or a pension that they have invested years in, just to fake evidence against some yea hoo. The chances of it happening, taking into consideration all the identifications that occur each day throughout the country, is extremely low - sort of like winning the lottery and then getting hit by lightning on the same day (my luck).

The issue of IAI Certification has been raised and please allow me to put in my two cents worth. I have over 37 years experience in full-time fingerprint work, 33 of them in the FBI. I am not IAI Certified by choice or should I say, I have not sought to be certified by the IAI. The IAI Certification program began in 1976. At that time if an examiner had some experience, was recommended by others and paid $75.00, that person could be "Certified" without taking any test. The term was "being grandfathered in." I objected to that process at the time and refused to take part even though being pressured to do so. My position was that everyone should have to be tested or no one. I certainly would not want a doctor taking out my appendix who had received his medical license by being "grandfathered." Even thought that was over 25 years ago, there are still some certified examiners who have never been tested.

Since then, I personally have not deemed it necessary to seek IAI Certification. I received certification by the FBI and many other law enforcement agencies do the same to their examiners who they believe have reached the "expert" level. Very few of the current FBI Fingerprint Specialists are IAI Certified and the same is true for many state and local examiners.

I'm not knocking IAI Certification, except to say that I disagree with some of the college-level educational requirements. However, I would like to make a personal observation and I say this without malice and as kindly as posssible: The IAI is not the final authority on who is or who is not a fingerprint expert. Training, knowledge and experience are still the prime factors.

I too, like Mr. Uhles, am an Associate Member of the IAI. The only real difference between an Active and Associate Member is that as an Associate Member you cannot hold the office of President or Vice-President of the IAI. It in no other way keeps you on the "sidelines."

I wish to publicly thank Ed German for hosting this web site and allowing ALL opinions to be posted, not just the ones with which he agrees. That takes a big man and a professional. We are not all going to think alike on everything and that is as it should be. However, as professionals we should always keep one thing in mind: We can all agree to disagree, agreeably. No name-calling here. We can argue issues all day long and still be friends.

I hope I too haven't misspelled anything inasmuch as on my computer, spell-check does not work in this format. I was in the finals of a spelling bee once, but I Iost because the other contastants cheeted.

Gary Jones
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Posted on Monday, May 21, 2001 - 07:47 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only) Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Mr. Uhles,

No offense taken. You are welcome to post here.

Thanks for pointing out the "Ponca" typo. Not much luck was needed in guessing your profession in that you apparently have a law office e-mail account. I cast no stones regarding that occupation. When I worked for a state police lab, I routinely sold my expert services to out-of-state attorneys during my off-duty hours. As a federal agent, I am prohibited from doing so now. Members of the public (and defense attorneys) deserve fine quality experts also. That's why I maintain a page for experts offering their services. Professional consultants are not willing to sell "reasonable doubt for a reasonable price," but they will not hesitate to independently apply scientific examination procedures in verifying the accuracy of the government's findings.

My 16 MAY 01 posting still has the answer for your research inquiry, i.e., request the IAI to do a literature search on the topic you mentioned.

Now then, here are some good tips for your employers when cross-examining "fingerprint experts":

1. Ask the expert if they are aware that for more than two decades the International Association for Identification has administered a Certification Program for testing fingerprint experts to determine if they possess minimum competency skills?
If they answer, "I know my abilities thank you..." then you need to find out WHY they have never demonstrated their expertise through professional certification testing. The IAI established its Certification examination program in the 1970's because there were a number of experts whose credentials (such as just a few one or two week schools) were suspect... and who did not have the training, experience and ability of even a beginning level Latent Print Examiner. In essence, the charlatans were saying, "Of course I'm an expert. If you don't believe it, just ask me."

If they answer, "Yes, but no matter what your background you cannot be an "active" member of any of these associations (when one is no longer working in law enforcement)...", point out to them that it is not necessary to be an IAI member to participate in the Latent Print Certification Program.

If they answer, "Yes, but I have taught classification, detection, recovery, and photography of fingerprints to officers throughout the northeastern part of my state..." then point out that fingerprint classification is generally considered a clerical level skill and does not rise to the expertise level of a Latent Print Examiner... and that a fingerprint clerk with good crime scene processing skills for detecting, photographing and recovering latent prints is NOT typically the same type of expert as a Latent Print Examiner.

If they answer, "When I belonged to IAI some years ago, they were not accomplishing much, in our area at least...", then ask them if they have been reading someone else's copies of the Journal of Forensic Identification or if they have ESP which enables them to miraculously monitor research published about fingerprints. If they haven't been borrowing copies and do not have ESP, then at best they have encountered only a portion of what the IAI publishes (perhaps in discussions with experts who read professional publications). Point out that the IAI is the oldest and largest professional organization of fingerprint experts in the world, with over 5,000 members in over 50 countries. Point out that the IAI's Journal of Forensic Identification is the premier source for expert fingerprint information anywhere.
2. Ask the expert if they adhere to national guidelines recommending annual proficiency testing?

3. Ask the expert when they last participated in proficiency testing?

The expert encountered may be just as capable as the best fingerprint expert in the country, but if they waffle on the above questions it could be an indicator they lack the training, experience and ability levels considered as meeting minimum competency.

--Ed German
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Johnny R. Uhles
Posted on Wednesday, May 16, 2001 - 04:23 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only) Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)


I did not make this inquiry to get you or anyone else upset. I do not just do latent print examinations. As far as my training, I have taught classification, detection, recovery, and photography of fingerprints to officers throughout northeast Oklahoma. I know my abilities thank you.

As to your "lucky guess" that I am now a defense investigator..........if you are going to check a domain name before replying to an inquiry, at least spell the towns' name correctly. My job in no way lessens my belief in the science of fingerprints, and I have no intention of trying to discredit them or any ethical examiners. Those actions are by people such as David Stoney or Lanny Cox.

When I belonged to IAI some years ago, they were not accomplishing much, in our area at least. Now it seems that no matter what your background you cannot be an "active" member of any of these associations. I don't join an orginization to sit on the sidelines as an observer.

Thank you
Johnny R. Uhles
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Posted on Wednesday, May 16, 2001 - 01:09 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only) Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Dear "juhles@oklawhoma.com,"

If you contact the International Association for Identification, you can request a literature search and purchase reprints of articles concerning evidence fabrication. Several Latent Print Examiners have documented the misdeeds of scofflaws over the years.

I don't know you, but your wording sounds like the occasional posting I get from a law firm investigator doing research into discrediting fingerprint evidence. Persons completing training in all phases of friction ridge identification and examination generally refer to themselves as Latent Print Examiners.

As a Latent Print Examiner, you should belong to professional organizations and receive professional journals documenting the rare policeman/crime scene technician or Latent Print Examiner discovered fabricating evidence and sent to prison.

If you worked as a Latent Print Examiner before, I hope that your agency gave you a lot more training than the two to five weeks of FBI fingerprint training you may have attended during your twelve years in "scientific investigations." The FBI issues certificates of attendance (that you were breathing and showed-up) and not certificates of competency. FBI fingerprint training can be very valuable and help polish the skills of budding experts in training programs complying with IAI or SWGFAST guidelines. However, outside such a training program, FBI fingerprint training does NOT necessarily mean that you were ever a fingerprint expert in the context of what the forensic community considers the equivalent of a Certified Latent Print Examiner.

Your statement that "we all know it happens" must be a reference to the tendency of a small portion of the general public to lie, cheat and otherwise do bad things... even the occasional policeman or law office investigator has been discovered doing it (even ones in Ponce, Oklahoma).
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Posted on Tuesday, May 15, 2001 - 05:17 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only) Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I am a fingerprint expert, having served twenty-nine years as a police officer, and eleven of those in scientific investigations. I have been trained by the FBI in all phases of fingerprints.

My question is concerning the falsification of fingerprint evidence. We all know it happens, but what I am looking for is some documentation of such cases, for research purposes.

Can anyone assist me in locating such cases?

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