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Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward
between latent print to AFIS 10-print51 files suffer by not being more fully automated: Examiners must manually encode a latent print before searching the AFIS 10-print database. Furthermore, the hit rate for latent prints searched against the AFIS database is approximately 40 percent (see Chapter 10). Much good work in recent years has improved the interoperability of AFIS installations and databases, but the pace of these efforts to date has been slow, and greater progress must be made toward achieving meaningful, nationwide AFIS interoperability.
The Growing Importance of the Forensic ScienceDisciplines to Homeland Security
Threats to food and transportation, concerns about nuclear and cyber security, and the need to develop rapid responses to chemical, nuclear, radiological, and biological threats underlie the need to ensure that there is a sufficient supply of adequately trained forensic specialists. At present, public crime laboratories are insufficiently prepared to handle mass disasters. In addition, demands will be increasing on the forensic science community to develop real-time plans and protocols for mass disaster responses by the network of crime laboratories and death investigation systems across the country—and internationally. The development and application of the forensic science disciplines to support intelligence, investigations, and operations aimed at the prevention, interdiction, disruption, attribution, and prosecution of terrorism has been an important component of both public health and what is now termed “homeland security” for at least two decades. With the development and deployment of enhanced capabilities came the integration of forensic science disciplines much earlier in the investigative process. As a result, the forensic science disciplines could be more fruitfully leveraged to generate investigative leads to test, direct, or redirect lines of investigation, not just in building a case for prosecution. Forensic science disciplines are essential components of the response to mass fatality events, whether natural or man made.
The Admission of Forensic Science Evidence in Litigation
As explained in Chapter 3, most forensic science disciplines are inextricably tethered to the legal system; many forensic fields (e.g., firearms analysis, latent fingerprint identification) are but handmaidens of the legal system, and they have no significant uses beyond law enforcement. There-
AFIS 10-print records the fingers, thumbs, and a palm print on a large index card. These prints are carefully taken, clear, and easy to read, and they make up the bulk of the AFIS data available today.