Digitized Prints Can Point Finger At Innocent
Experts say digital fingerprints can omit vital details or may be modified without the FBI’s knowledge, which could lead to misleading matches in criminal cases. Compared to conventional photographs of fingerprints, the digitized version contains less information.
Forensic scientist David Grieve with the Illinois State Police says, “There’s a risk that not only would they exclude someone incorrectly–we have the potential to identify someone incorrectly.”
In 2001, an FBI-backed team of fingerprint scientists recommended that the resolution of digital images be doubled from 500 pixels per inch to 1,000, but most police agencies today still rely on equipment that features the lower resolution.
About 150 local, state, federal, and overseas law enforcement agencies use MoreHits software to improve digital print quality of fingerprints. Another popular tool for enhancing digital fingerprints is Adobe Workshop, which, however, does not record any changes made to the original image.
The FBI’s Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System, which currently contains 48 million sets of prints, may contain fingerprints altered by police agencies.
Forensic specialist Erik Berg with the Tacoma, Wash., police department who is also the developer of MoreHits urges defense attorneys to ask questions like, “If this is a digital image, has it been enhanced or is this the original capture with no changes to it? If it’s been enhanced, I want you to show me what you did and tell me what your training is. And did you go out of your area of expertise to do this?”
Abstracted by the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center(NLECTC) from the Chicago Tribune (01/03/05) P. CN1; McRoberts, Flynn; Mills, Steve .