*AUTHOR'S  NOTATION*

This article does not question the general acceptance of fingerprints as a positive means of individualization.  Nor does it recognize a lack of scientific validity. 

 What is The Point?   

When making an identification comparison between a known and unknown impression, Latent Print Analysts rely on friction ridge characteristics in concurrence between the two impressions.  Those that do not quantify (count points) rely on third level detail (edgeoscopy, poroscopy, and ridge shapes) to make an analysis, comparison, and evaluation.  These analysts state that the comparison is a qualitative and quantitative process. 

 The qualitative process that is applied depends on the validity of what is seen by the examiner.  There is such a degree of variation of appearance in the 3rd level detail due to pressure, distortion, over or under processing, foreign or excessive residue on the fingers, surface debris and surface irregularity, to name a few. The repeatability of the finite detail that is utilized in the comparison process has never been subjected to a definitive study to demonstrate that what is visible is actually a true 3rd level detail or an anomaly.  

The problem that occurs is when third level detail is not present, it becomes solely a quantitative process of Galton 2nd level detail.  The non- point counters refuse to put a number on the quantitative portion of their comparison analysis opting for the rhetorical response of "Show me the Print."   There has to be something to measure and count if the comparison process includes "quantitative".  If the analysts do not quantify their analysis then their opinion of identity is strictly subjective.  A subjective analysis without quantification makes the identification process as reliable as astrology.  If one does not quantify, is it an ID when a warm and fuzzy feeling overwhelms you?  What happens if my warm and fuzzy feeling is different that yours?  

At a recent meeting, I witnessed representatives of Federal and State agencies respond with the number 7 to 8 points when questioned on how many points (Galton) are needed in the latent impression to retain it for evidence. These same representatives responded with "There is no minimum number" when questioned on how many points are needed to effect and identification.  The dichotomy is that they have defined their minimum number by default, as they can never identify the impression if they never bothered to recover it in the first place.  Since "There is no minimum number of points needed to make an identification", these agencies are destroying evidence that may be identified by someone else on less that 7 Galton points.

With the advent of live-scan fingerprint records, at 500dpi, the use of 3rd level detail is impossible to use in the identification process.  Will the governmental agencies increase their fingerprint file size by six times (1200dpi) on every arrestee just in case someone may need to use the 3rd level detail at some time?  The 500dpi file size reliably captures the Galton 2nd level detail and does the job that needs to be done in the identification process.  It is not cost effective to increase the file size of the ten print data base just in case someone needs that ridge bump, or pore some day.  When discussing this issue at the 1999 Calif. Div. IAI Seminar, the audience of approximately 120 persons was asked to raise their hand if ever in their career that they had to rely on that one 3rd level detail to make the identification.  Not one single hand was raised!

 That brings me to the topic of this article regarding the abandonment of counting points and relying on Ridgeology for individualization.  Ridgeology hasn't been scientifically proven to be repeatable, and it's application is not standardized. The digitization of the fingerprinting process (live scan) will not record the detail that is needed.  If we can't see it, then......... WHAT'S THE POINT?