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).
These steps toward AFIS interoperability must be accompanied by federal, state, and local funds to support jurisdictions in upgrading, operating, and ensuring the integrity and security of their systems; retraining current staff; and training new fingerprint examiners to gain the desired benefits of true interoperability. Additionally, greater scientific benefits can be realized through the availability of fingerprint data or databases for research purposes (using, of course, all the modern security and privacy protections available to scientists when working with such data). Once created, NIFS might also be tasked with the maintenance and periodic review of the new standards and procedures.
Good forensic science and medical examiner practices are of clear value from a homeland security perspective, because of their roles in bringing criminals to justice and in dealing with the effects of natural and human-made mass disasters. Forensic science techniques (e.g., the evaluation of DNA fragments) enable more thorough investigations of crime scenes that have been damaged physically. Routine and trustworthy collection of digital evidence, and improved techniques and timeliness for its analysis, can be of great potential value in identifying terrorist activity. Therefore, the forensic science community has a role to play in homeland security. However, to capitalize on this potential, the forensic science and medical examiner communities must be well interfaced with homeland security efforts, so that they can contribute when needed. To be successful, this interface will require the establishment of good working relationships between federal, state, and local jurisdictions, the creation of strong security programs to protect data transmittals between jurisdictions, the development of additional training for forensic scientists and crime scene investigators, and the promulgation of contingency plans that will promote efficient team efforts on demand. Policy issues relating to the enforcement of homeland security are not within the scope of the committee’s charge and, thus, are beyond the scope of the report. It can hardly be doubted, however, that improvements in the forensic science community and medical examiner system could greatly enhance the capabilities of homeland security.