Fingerprints collected from a crime scene, or from items of evidence from a crime, can be used in forensic science to identify suspects, victims and other persons who touched the surface in question. Fingerprint identification emerged as an important system within various police agencies in the late 19th century. This system replaced anthropometric measurements as a more reliable method for identifying persons having a prior record, often under an alias name, in a criminal record repository. The science of fingerprint identification stands out among all other forensic sciences for many reasons because of its superiority and reliability.
Worldwide, fingerprinting has served all governments during the past 100 years to provide accurate identification of criminals. No two fingerprints have ever been found alike in the billions of human and automated computer comparisons. Fingerprints have become the very basis for criminal history foundation at almost every police agency.
The first forensic professional organization, the International Association for Identification (IAI), was established in 1915. It established the first professional certification program for forensic scientists, the IAI’s Certified Latent Print Examiner program in 1977, issuing certification to those meeting stringent criteria and revoking certification for serious errors such as erroneous identifications.
Fingerprints remain the most commonly used forensic evidence the world over. In most jurisdictions, fingerprint examination cases outnumber all other forensic examination casework combined. It continues to expand as the premier method for identifying persons, with tens of thousands of persons added to fingerprint repositories daily in America alone – far outdistancing similar databases in growth. Fingerprinting has outperformed DNA and all other human identification systems to identify more murderers, rapists and other serious offenders (fingerprints solve ten times more unknown suspect cases than DNA in most jurisdictions).
Although some reporters and authors claim that fingerprints have long enjoyed a mystique of infallibility, the opposite is true. Fingerprint identification was the first forensic discipline in 1977 to formally institute a professional certification program for individual experts, including a procedure for decertifying those making any investigative errors. Other forensic disciplines later followed suit in establishing certification programs whereby certifications could be revoked for any error found.
Fingerprint identifications lead to far more positive identifications of persons worldwide daily than any other human identification procedure. The American federal government alone effects positive identification of over 70,000 persons. A large percentage of the identifications, approximately 92% of US Visit identifications, are affected in lights-out, no human involved computer identification process with 100% accuracy based on only two fingerprints.