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.

Recommendation 12:

Congress should authorize and appropriate funds for the National Institute of Forensic Science (NIFS) to launch a new broad-based effort to achieve nationwide fingerprint data interoperability. To that end, NIFS should convene a task force comprising relevant experts from the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the major law enforcement agencies (including representatives from the local, state, federal, and, perhaps, international levels) and industry, as appropriate, to develop:

  1. standards for representing and communicating image and minutiae data among Automated Fingerprint Identification Systems. Common data standards would facilitate the sharing of fingerprint data among law enforcement agencies at the local, state, federal, and even international levels, which could result in more solved crimes, fewer wrongful identifications, and greater efficiency with respect to fingerprint searches; and

  2. baseline standards—to be used with computer algorithms—to map, record, and recognize features in fingerprint images, and a research agenda for the continued improvement, refinement, and characterization of the accuracy of these algorithms (including quantification of error rates).

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