In 2011, a team of researchers from the FBI and Noblis published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the first large-scale black box study measuring the accuracy of fingerprint examiners. They reported a low rate of false positives (0.1%) and a much higher rate of false negatives (about 7.5%). The FBI/Noblis study dealt only with impressions originating from the distal phalanges of fingers (fingerprints). Anecdotally, it is estimated that approximately 30% of comparison cases involve palm impressions. It has been hitherto unknown whether examiners are equally accurate at both tasks. This presentation provides the results of a first-of-its-kind large-scale black box study that measured examiners’ accuracy when conducting exclusively palm comparisons.
This presentation reports on the results recorded both during the Analysis and Comparison phases by a total of 226 fingerprint examiners. These examiners carried out a total of 12,279 determinations in Analysis and 9,460 decisions following Comparison. The pool of cases was composed of 526 pairings of known ground truth, that is the source of the unknown impressions was known to the researchers before conducting the study. Both known mated pairs and known non-mated pairs were presented. Participants first performed a suitability analysis on unknown marks. As such, not all unknown marks proceeded to comparison. Those deemed by the examiner to be unsuitable were not presented with a known exemplar to compare. Unknown marks and known exemplars varied in quantity and quality of features to reflect the complexity of casework.