Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2014, $364,830)
As submitted by the proposer: Recording fingerprint impressions from decedents in the morgue or in the field is often a manual, cumbersome, and labor intensive process requiring a trained technician. Additionally, during Mass Fatality Incident (MFIs), rapid victim identification is under significant time constraints, while trained personnel, supplies, and equipment may be very limited. The postmortem fingerprint recovery process usually has inherent challenges and in some cases, introduces inaccuracies, alters or destroys the friction ridge detail, or simply can be difficult to obtain due to the deteriorated condition of the remains.
Three-dimensional (3D) scanners have been identified as a potentially important tool for forensic scientists to help address the challenges of postmortem fingerprint recovery due to its noncontact scanning capability, its ability to scan complex surfaces and capture scale. However, in-depth research must be conducted to show the potential for 3D data to facilitate collection, analysis, and comparison of postmortem fingerprint impressions. In addition, minimal work has been done to evaluate required specifications, accuracy as compared to existing techniques, and algorithms converting the acquired 3D postmortem image to a two-dimensional (2D) postmortem image that is compatible with existing fingerprint matching algorithms and databases. Furthermore, research must be conducted to examine how 3D data might be incorporated into the current postmortem fingerprint recovery workflow, current workflow of a latent fingerprint examiner, and what additional tools may be necessary to fully take advantage of this new technology.
The goal of this proposal is to evaluate the potential for using a non-contact, 3D scanner for the capture of postmortem fingerprints to facilitate rapid identification of the deceased to establish a benchmark for postmortem 3D scanning and subsequent conversion to 2D images that the forensic science community could use to develop procedures, standards and best practices for the use of 3D scanners in the recovery and analysis of postmortem fingerprint impressions.
With direction from subject matter experts, we will modify a current 3D scanner prototype and a series of tools that could be used to incorporate 3D scanning into the postmortem fingerprint recovery workflow and evaluate its potential for use in daily casework and during MFIs. Finally, we will evaluate 3D scanning against current techniques with a variety of postmortem changes (decomposition, mummification, degloving, dehydration, etc.) and test the ability of the scanner with each technique to accurately recover the friction ridge information within the depressions of the postmortem skin and convert the 3D image to a 2D image.
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