As submitted by the proposer:
Recording postmortem (PM) fingerprint impressions from decedents is a manual and often aborintensive process requiring a trained technician. The PM fingerprint recovery process has significant challenges due to the deteriorated condition of the remains, which can alter and even destroy the fragile friction ridge detail. Additionally, during Mass Fatality Incident (MFIs), rapid victim identification is under significant time constraints, while trained personnel, supplies, and equipment may be very limited.
Three-dimensional (3D) scanners have been identified as a potentially important tool for forensic scientists to help address the challenges of PM fingerprint recovery due to their contactless scanning capabilities, and ability to scan complex surfaces and capture scale. However, in-depth research is necessary to demonstrate the potential for 3D data to facilitate the collection, analysis, and comparison of PM fingerprint impressions. In addition, minimal work has been done to evaluate required specifications, accuracy, and algorithms that convert the acquired 3D image into a searchable, two-dimensional (2D) image. Furthermore, research must be conducted to examine how 3D data might be incorporated into the workflow of current PM fingerprint recovery techniques and what additional tools may be necessary to fully take advantage of this new technology.
The goals of this proposal are to continue research from Phase I of this project (NIJ Award #2014-IJ-CX-K003) and further evaluate and enhance the potential for using a contactless 3D scanner for the capture of PM fingerprints and to establish a benchmark for PM 3D scanning and conversion into 2D images. This research will allow the forensic science community to develop procedures, standards, and best practices for the use of 3D scanners in the recovery and analysis of PM fingerprint impressions.
With direction from subject matter experts and testing on unidentified human remains from the San Diego County Medical Examiners Office and District of Columbia Office of Chief Medical Examiner, the research team will modify a current 3D scanner prototype and a series of tools that could be used to incorporate 3D scanning into the PM fingerprint recovery workflow, as well as evaluate its potential for use in daily casework and during MFIs. We will evaluate 3D scanning against current techniques exhibiting various stages of PM changes, some which were not encountered during Phase I. We will test the ability of the scanner with each technique to accurately recover the maximum friction ridge information and convert the 3D image into a 2D image. The evaluation will include subject matter expertise from latent fingerprint examiners at the San Diego Sheriff's Department Crime Laboratory that will search PM fingerprint records against antemortem fingerprint databases to attempt identification efforts.
Note: This project contains a research and/or development component, as defined in applicable law.