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Lost Opportunities with Latent Prints

By: , Posted on: November 16, 2016

Source: Flikr
Source: Flickr

All too often important and possibly critical evidence is left behind or unnecessarily contaminated at the scene of a crime because all first responders are not aware of the importance of certain items. A good fundamental knowledge of how latent prints are located and developed is something that should be taught to first responders in their basic training. Knowledge of the types of surfaces and contaminants that can be processed to expose the latent fingerprints and recover DNA would be invaluable.

Location and placement of items and the repose of victims can assist in the investigation of those crimes. Moving items such as weapons, displaced items from a struggle or repositioning bodies can taint or misdirect an investigation. Also handling these items can obliterate or contaminate fingerprint and DNA evidence. The wearing of personal protection equipment (IE. Tyvek suits and latex gloves) that protect the wearer from contaminating the scene but does not protect the evidence from being damaged. A fingerprint or epithelial cells can be wiped out by a gloved hand just as easily as a non gloved hand. Proper handling, packaging and documentation are important for assuring that any results of examination are permitted to be used in court. An unbroken “chain of evidence” must be demonstrated in order for evidence to be of any prosecutorial value.

Chapter Download: The Forensic Science of Fingerprints

Opportunities can also be missed once the evidence has been transferred to the crime laboratory. Close examination of the evidence can uncover micro items such as hairs, fibers and tool marks. The laboratory analyst should have a general knowledge of the capabilities of the other forensic disciplines. Certain fingerprint processes can obliterate tool mark evidence or contaminate DNA evidence. Close cooperation with these disciplines is necessary to avoid losing evidence. Using the proper process protocols when multiple processes are going to be used also assures the maximum probability of developing fingerprints.

In my new book, Latent Print Processing Guide, the criminal justice student pursuing a career in crime scene or latent print examination will get a fundamental knowledge of detecting, developing, recovering and preserving latent prints. For those other first responders’ chapters 1 through 4 will give them a good knowledge of what to look for. For the more advanced Latent Analyst chapters 3 through 5 may give you a hand or confirm your judgments concerning process selection.

About the Author

Stephen P. Kasper retired as a Senior Crime Laboratory Analyst – Latent Print Section, from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Fort Myers Regional Operations Center. Prior to that he retired at the rank of Detective from the Town of Amherst Police Department, Amherst New York where he worked in the crime lab as a latent fingerprint examiner and forensic photographer. All totaled he has 36 years’ experience in law enforcement with half of that dealing with crime scene investigation and fingerprint examination.

About the Book

latent print processing guide

Latent Print Processing Guide is a text for forensic analysts entirely dedicated to latent print development written so that non-crime scene or non-crime laboratory personnel can gain valuable information. We are happy to share with you a chapter from the book, “The Forensic Science of Fingerprints,” which is an introduction to the science and theory behind using fingerprints as a means of identification.

Download (PDF, 98KB)

If you would like to view additional chapters, they are available on-line via ScienceDirect. If you would like to order a print or e-copy of the book, visit the Elsevier store. Apply discount code STC215 and receive up to 30% off the list price and free global shipping!

Forensic Sciences

Forensic science is a key component of criminal investigation and civil law worldwide. This broad-based field ranges over topics as varied as DNA typing, osteology, neuropathology, psychology, crime scene photography, ballistics, criminal profiling, and more. Elsevier provides forensics publications that cover all these topics, written by top authorities, to students, professors, researchers, and professionals.