• recognizing absent, blurred, double/multioverlap, poor-quality sections of an observed print and encoding the system to downweight, or omit entirely, during the search process;

  • recognizing any orientation information;

  • conducting database searches;

  • providing “best matches”; and

  • collecting statistical data based on the quality of the print and numbers/types of features.

Other technical challenges might include the development and use of a secure Web interface (or an analogous system) that would permit authorized latent print examiners in any jurisdiction to submit queries to IAFIS and other federated AFIS databases, as well as the development of standard procedures for maintaining AFIS databases securely, removing redundancies, ensuring that fingerprint data are entered properly, and conducting quality control and validation of searches (i.e., ensuring that queries are actually searching an entire database). Although some of the capabilities mentioned here are present in today’s commercially available systems, significant improvement still can be realized.

Support from Policymakers

Given the complexity of the AFIS interoperability challenge and the large number of players whose contributions and cooperation will be necessary to meet that challenge, it is clear that no effort aimed at nationwide interoperability will succeed without strong, high-level support from policymakers in federal and state government. Resources available to law enforcement agencies for the deployment, use, and maintenance of AFIS systems vary greatly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and the considerable expenses associated with purchasing, maintaining, training for, operating, and upgrading an AFIS implementation—which can easily cost millions of dollars6—must be well thought out and weighed against other competing costs and interests facing law enforcement.

The committee hopes that this report will help convince policymakers of the benefits to nationwide interoperability and move them to provide much-needed support to law enforcement agencies, vendors, and researchers to help them achieve this goal. Indeed, the committee believes that true AFIS interoperability can be achieved in a timely manner only if policymakers provide a strong, clear mandate and additional funding from federal and state governments—both to support the research and development


See P. Komarinski. 2005. Automated Fingerprint Identification Systems. Boston: Elsevier Academic Press, p. 145.

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