The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) released an extensive report on latent print evidence in February titled Latent Print Examination and Human Factors: Improving the Practice through a Systems Approach put together by The Expert Working Group on Human Factors in Latent Print Analysis. Associate Professor Jules Epstein
served on the working group that put the report together, lending his expertise on legal issues related to forensic evidence.
“There’s been a concern in the last several years that some of the forensic disciplines lacked a grounding in fundamental science,” said Epstein of the NIST’s decision to put together the working group, which brought together the top latent print examiners in the world, academics with “knowledge of the law of evidence and the interplay between science and the law,” engineers, and cognitive psychologists.
The group put the report together with a “human factors” perspective according to Professor Epstein, who observed that humans are involved at every step of the finger print process, and that the team had to fundamentally answer the question, “Are we using scientifically valid technology to record latent print results?”
Describing the group’s process as people sitting down and acknowledging different perspectives to try and come to a consensus on best practices and limitations, Epstein said that the group has “Hope that the report will be a model that other forensic disciplines can follow.”
Professor Epstein’s primary contributions to the report came in the Reports and Documentation chapter and the Testimony chapter.
For those interested, the NIST’s website offers the report as a pdf for download free of charge