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Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward
AFIS and Database Interoperability
Great improvement is necessary in AFIS interoperability. Crimes may go unsolved today simply because it is not possible for investigating agencies to search across all the databases that might hold a suspect’s fingerprints or that may contain a match for an unidentified latent print from a crime scene. It is also possible that some individuals have been wrongly convicted because of the limitations of fingerprint searches.
At present, serious practical problems pose obstacles to the achievement of nationwide AFIS interoperability. These problems include convincing AFIS equipment vendors to cooperate and collaborate with the law enforcement community and researchers to create and use baseline standards for sharing fingerprint data and create a common interface. Second, law enforcement agencies lack the resources needed to transition to interoperable AFIS implementations. Third, coordinated jurisdictional agreements and public policies are needed to 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 from increased AFIS interoperability, the committee believes that a broad-based 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