What types of information can and do latent print examiners review? A survey of practicing examiners

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Gardner, Brett O.
Neuman, Maddisen
Kelley, Sharon
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© 2023 Elsevier B.V.
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Center for Statistics and Applications in Forensic Evidence
Understanding typical work practices is important to understanding the decision-making process underlying latent print comparison and improving the reliability of the discipline. Despite efforts to standardize work practices, a growing literature has demonstrated that contextual effects can influence every aspect of the analytic process. However, very little is known about what types of information are available to latent print examiners, and what types of information latent print examiners routinely review. We surveyed practicing latent print examiners (N = 284) regarding what types of information are accessible during routine casework, and what types of information they routinely review during casework. We also explored whether access and inclination to review different types of information vary according to unit size and examiner role. Results indicated that information describing the physical evidence is accessible by almost all examiners (94.4%), and most examiners have access to offense type (90.5%), method of evidence collection (77.8%), and the names of both suspect (76.1%) and victim (73.9%). However, evidence description (86.3%) and method of evidence collection (68.3%) were the only information types consistently reviewed by most examiners. Findings also indicate that examiners in smaller laboratories have access to more information types and often review more information types than examiners from larger laboratories, but both populations choose to not review information at similar rates. Further, examiners in supervisory positions are more likely to choose to not review information than examiners in non-supervisory positions. Although there is some consensus regarding what types of information examiners routinely review, findings suggest that there is little absolute consensus regarding what information examiners can even access, and highlight two sources of variability in examiner work practices: employment setting and examiner role. This is concerning in light of efforts to maximize the reliability of analytic procedures (and ultimately, conclusions) and represents an important area of future study as the field progresses.
This is a manuscript of an article published as Gardner, Brett O., Maddisen Neuman, and Sharon Kelley. "What types of information can and do latent print examiners review? A survey of practicing examiners." Forensic Science International 344 (2023): 111598. doi:10.1016/j.forsciint.2023.111598. Posted with permission of CSAFE.

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