Friday, February 13, 2009

LAPD Fingerprint Forensics Folly

In a study on perception, cognition and expertise, by Thomas A. Busey, Ph.D. Experimental Psychology, of Indianna University and Itiel E. Dror, Ph.D., Senior Lecture of Cognitive Science at the School of Psychology University of Southampton, have done a study on "Special Abilities and Vulnerabilities in Forensic Expertise."

The findings of that study reveal a great flaw in the identification of individuals from suspect samples. When fingerprint comparisons are made, they have the standard of checking each other's work, causing that influence to affect the results. The study says, "The very fact that identifications will be verified (sometimes by more than one verifier) introduces a whole range of issues, from diffusion of responsibility (Darley & Latané, 1968) to conformity, attention, self-fulfilling prophecies wishful thinking. "

Recently, a senior fingerprint analyst for the LAPD was arrested for allegedly sexually assaulted one of his tenants in an apartment in South L.A. Miguel Martinez Rivera, 50, of Montebello was taken into custody Wednesday morning shortly after reporting to work. He has has worked in the LAPD's crime lab for over 20 years. Of the fingerprint staff, he has the highest authority of the civilian workers and reviews the work of the newer and junior staff.

This would not be so serious if the LAPD has not already had the fingerprint examiners who falsely implicated at least two people in crimes have been linked to nearly 1,000 other criminal cases. At least six print analysts with the LAPD latent print section have made critical errors in their work.

The LAPD would do well to pay out the half million dollars needed to reform the unit by hiring an outside firm to review practices and protocols of the 80-person fingerprint unit before the civil actions begin.

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