U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Latent Print Examination and Human Factors: Improving the Practice through a Systems Approach

NCJ Number
Date Published
February 2012
248 pages
This is the report of the Expert Working Group on Human Factors in Latent Print Analysis, which was charged with developing an understanding of the role of human factors and their contributions to errors in latent print analysis, followed by the development of guidelines for reducing the incidence of human error in latent print analysis and the offering of recommendations for future research.
"Human factors" issues can arise in any experience-based and judgment-based analytical process such as latent print examination. Human factors that can diminish the accuracy and reliability of latent print examination include inadequate training, extraneous knowledge about the suspects or other matters in the cases, poor judgment, health problems, limitations of vision, complex technology, and stress. Human factors related to the documentation and communication of an examiner's work and findings are also impacted by human factors. This analysis of the role of human factors in latent print examination focuses on various aspects of the examination and reporting process. Topics addressed are performing analysis, comparison, evaluation, and verification; reporting and testifying; managing the process; improving training and education; providing facilities and equipment, and supporting research efforts. For each of these issues, recommendations are offered for minimizing the adverse impact of human factors that are critical in arriving at accurate and reliable interpretations of latent print examination. A major emphasis is the use of the process known as ACE-V, which organizes the interpretations and decisions of an examiner into a useful and logical sequence. A criticism of this process is that it does not detail the substantive content of the various steps. Recommendations are offered for increasing the transparency of the process and insulating the examiner from extraneous influences. Recommendations are offered for reporting and testifying, managing the process, improving training and education, providing facilities and equipment, and supporting research efforts. 13 boxes, 17 figures, 23 tables, and a bibliography

Date Published: February 1, 2012