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Dactyloscopist. Aka “Fingerprint Expert”. By: Eliza Morgan and Caitlin Kelley. Our Specialist at Work. Countless crime scenes are left without further investigation because of a lack of proper personnel or evidence

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Aka “Fingerprint Expert”

By: Eliza Morgan and Caitlin Kelley


Our Specialist at Work

  • Countless crime scenes are left without further investigation because of a lack of proper personnel or evidence
  • With a fingerprint specialist, small details are caught that would otherwise be missed by the untrained eye.
  • Fingerprints found at a crime scene can be compared with the prints of suspects. This can solve a crime by placing the suspect there, placing the suspect with the weapon, etc.
  • Even if there aren’t any suspects, prints can develop leads about the criminal’s size, sex, job, etc.

The three types of fingerprints

Latent prints- these are the prints that are hidden to the naked eye. These are the prints that take the most training to find and analyze, and that are hardest to make comparisons with. Most of the time at crime scenes, these are the prints that a fingerprint specialist is looking for. Usually need enhancement and need to be somehow lifted from the crime scene

Patent prints- obvious to the human eye. Since they can already be seen, they are usually photographed and taken from the scene and don’t need any enhancement

Plastic prints- A print that is placed in a material that keeps the shape of the ridge detail of the print (example material: melted candle wax). These prints are photographed and need no enhancement, but specialists are away that other latent prints may also exist on these materials.


The Fingerprint Patterns Used for Identification

Loops(70% of prints encountered): radial loop, ulnar loop (depending which hand the loop is found on)

Whorls (25-35% of prints): plain whorl, central pocket whorl, double loop whorl, accidental whorl

Arches (5% of prints): plain arch, tented arch

Double loop whorl

Central pocket whorl

Plain whorl

Plain arch

Tented arch



Case Study

(An article from the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, 1992)

  • In March of 1990, a woman was abused and fatally stabbed.
  • There were minimal clues at the scene, besides a pillow and a few blood stains.
  • At first glance, the case looked hopeless
  • However, thanks to the fingerprint specialist, a faint fingerprint ridge was found imprinted on the blood stains of the pillow case.
  • Without the untrained eye, this small detail would have been missed, leaving the crime unsolved, or, at the very least, much harder to solve.

Case Study Details

  • With the help of the specialist, the fingerprint details were enlarged and analyzed, a procedure that would have otherwise been impossible.
  • With this information, a distinct fingerprint was discovered, and thus the investigators were able to narrow it down to a a group of people, based on the DNA analysis from the blood.
  • Based on the other leads, investigators then had a clear idea on who the person could be based on the sound evidence.

What exactly does your job entail?

  • He examines the fingerprints at all different types of crime scenes. He goes to a scene and looks for latent (hidden) prints. “We didn’t used to have computers.” When he started everything was done manually. But now, computers are used to search the database for known prints (prints of people that are already in the database) and people like him must compare the prints.
  • “I’ve seen it all.” He’s been to robberies, burglaries, murders, sexual assaults, and “anything you can think of.” It is a fulltime job that he has done for 48 years. He worked 37 years with the FBI and is now on his 11th year on his own.

What does the job mean to you?

  • “It’s very rewarding.” Those were the first words from his mouth when asked this question. He gets to help solve crimes and he doesn’t seem too upset about the money. It started as “just a job” and now it has turned in to extra money for Mr. Futrell. He said he now charges $500 a case “whether it is something that takes 10 minutes or four hours.”

What type of training did you need?

  • “It has changed a lot since my time. I started back in 1960, before you were even thought about.” He had to spend 5 years “looking at ink prints, classifying them and putting them in files before doing latent print work.” When he got to latent prints he learned how to make them visible with chemicals and powders. These are prints they look for at the crime scenes.
  • Now, he says, they need to have 4 years of college before starting training. Though people can have any major it looks best to have a major in something like chemistry or biological science. Government agencies hire after training (an example of one agency that hires fingerprint specialists is the Army Crime Lab)

Why did you decide to get into this field of work?

  • “It was simply a job.” He started when he was 17 and had no idea what he would be doing. He said, “I didn’t know if I would be sweeping floors, cleaning windows, or what.”

Why do you love your job?

  • He makes plenty of money
  • He has been to over 20 states to help solve crimes. He also gets to go all throughout the country to teach because of his job

…But why he loves it the most

  • “It’s a Sunday, and I’m here in my workshop playing with chemicals. The job never stops and never gets old.”


  • Thanks to forensic specialists such as a “fingerprint expert” and the technologies that are now available, otherwise helpless pieces of evidence can now be used to narrowed down the suspect of a crime to such a large degree that it can either “make or break” the solving of a case.


  • http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/207318/fingerprint
  • http://www.crimeandclues.com/92dec001.htm
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fingerprint#Latent_prints
  • http://www.apsu.edu/oconnort/3210/3210lect03.htm
  • http://www.policensw.com/info/fingerprints/finger07.html
  • http://www.buzzle.com/articles/identifying-fingerprint-patterns-types-of-fingerprints.html
  • www.findlaw.com