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Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward
The committee believes that, in addition to the technical challenges noted above, a number of other critical obstacles to achieving nationwide AFIS interoperability exist involving issues of practical implementation. These include (1) convincing federal and state policymakers to mandate nationwide AFIS interoperability; (2) persuading AFIS equipment vendors to cooperate and collaborate with the law enforcement community and researchers to create and use baseline standards for sharing fingerprint image and minutiae data and interfaces that support all searches; (3) providing law enforcement agencies with the resources necessary to develop interoperable AFIS implementations; and (4) coordinating jurisdictional agreements and public policies that would allow law enforcement agencies to share fingerprint data more broadly.
Given the disparity in resources and information technology expertise available to local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, the relatively slow pace of interoperability efforts to date, and the potential gains that would accrue from increased AFIS interoperability, the committee believes that a new emphasis on achieving nationwide fingerprint data interoperability is needed.
Congress should authorize and appropriate funds for the NationalInstitute of Forensic Science (NIFS) to launch a new broad-basedeffort to achieve nationwide fingerprint data interoperability. Tothat end, NIFS should convene a task force comprising relevantexperts from the National Institute of Standards and Technologyand the major law enforcement agencies (including representativesfrom the local, state, federal, and, perhaps, international levels) andindustry, as appropriate, to develop:
standards for representing and communicating image andminutiae data among Automated Fingerprint Identification Systems. Common data standards would facilitatethe sharing of fingerprint data among law enforcementagencies at the local, state, federal, and even internationallevels, which could result in more solved crimes, fewerwrongful identifications, and greater efficiency with respectto fingerprint searches; and
baseline standards—to be used with computer algorithms—to map, record, and recognize features in fingerprintimages, and a research agenda for the continued improvement, refinement, and characterization of the accuracy ofthese algorithms (including quantification of error rates).