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This five-day course brings together foundational knowledge, complex comparisons, and testimony practice into an intense weeklong course. The academics are rigorous; group work is required; and verbal responses to testimony-style questions are essential.

Empirical Observations and Tacit Knowledge

There is a long history of tacit knowledge and empirical observations supporting the use of friction ridge impressions as a means of identifying individuals. Layered behind this tacit knowledge and empirical observation is the biological causation: developmental (genetic) noise. Attendees will learn how developmental noise during fetal development of friction ridges imparts the discriminating power to the ridge arrangements. Attendees will learn how biological processes can distort the arrangements of the friction ridges and how to recognize (and defend their interpretations of) these distortions. Attendees will prepare and verbally answer questions to lay foundation for the acceptance of fingerprint evidence based on empirical observations and biological concepts.

Measuring the Discriminating Power of Fingerprints

Over the last century, scientists have attempted to measure the uniqueness of fingerprints. Attendees will learn about model making in science and the recommended elements of a robust fingerprint model. Once this foundation is established, attendees will learn about twin studies, historical fingerprint models, pattern and minutia distribution studies, and modern statistical studies. The basic premise and limitations of each model will be discussed. Both analysts and statistical models walk the fine line of discriminating between a difficult identification and a potential close non-match. Attendees will review complex comparisons that live in this hinterland. Attendees will prepare and verbally answer questions to lay foundation for the acceptance of fingerprint evidence without statistics.

Developing Expertise

The human visual system is complex, but it does follow basic rules and it does learn when a person is repeatedly exposed to visual stimuli (i.e. fingerprints). Attendees will be introduced to the human visual system, theories of experts and expert performance, and studies regarding visual expertise in fingerprint analysts. Attendees will employ their expertise to compare impressions with tonal transitions and background interference. Attendees will prepare and verbally answer questions to lay foundation for why an untrained person (e.g. a jury) may lack the requisite expertise to interpret or make inferences from friction ridge comparisons.

Expert Performance

A group of recent studies have demonstrated the reliability (and variability) of fingerprint experts. Attendees will be introduced to human factors, error rates, black box studies of analyst performance, and white box studies of analyst performance. Attendees will prepare and verbally answer questions to lay foundation for the acceptance of fingerprint evidence based on the accuracy and reliability of the analysts (Daubert error rate criteria).

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