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Innovative Latent Print Processing

Nicole Bagley and Monique Brillhart, M.S

In the Latent Print Unit (LPU) at the FBI Laboratory in Quantico, Virginia, there is a small, specialized group of qualified forensic examiners and photographers who make up part of the Hazardous Evidence Analysis Team (HEAT). Members of this team undergo rigorous training at partner agency facilities across the nation to gain access to a category of unique evidence: items contaminated with chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or explosive materials (CBRNE).

Given the specialized nature of these materials, the standard approach that the LPU would take to examine evidence for the presence of latent prints needed an adjustment. As such, LPU HEAT examiners began adapting their processes and procedures for each unique scenario. One latent print processing technique that the team has taken a creative approach with is known as cyanoacrylate, or superglue, fuming.

Superglue Fuming Basics

One of the workhorses of latent print processing, cyanoacrylate fuming, encapsulates an evidentiary item in a closed chamber and introduces superglue vapors over time to coat the latent prints.

Because of the lack of relative humidity in many locations geographically, humidity is often introduced to enhance the development and success of the technique. This is done to regenerate, or rehydrate, the moisture component of any latent print residue that may be present on the item.

After the item is humidified, liquid superglue is quickly heated until it turns into a gas, which produces vapors that adhere to the regenerated latent residue. Last, the toxic fumes must be purged from the chamber safely.

This entire process results in a plasticized latent print (figure 1) that aids in forensic evidence preservation and print visualization for photographic capture. At this point, that photograph can be digitally transmitted to the FBI Laboratory, where an examiner awaits to analyze and hopefully compare the latent print to any known subjects or search it against the millions of known fingerprint and palm print records maintained in the FBI's database.

While all of this is accomplished daily for run-of-the-mill evidence using automatic and premanufactured chambers in a controlled laboratory setting at Quantico, the HEAT cases face a different set of challenges. For hazardous situations, the LPU HEAT examiners designed a solution to conduct superglue fuming effectively in a variety of environments.

Creative and Simple Path Forward

Examiners created a specialized portable cyanoacrylate fuming kit designed to deploy easily to any location requiring a HEAT response (figure 2). The kit comprises materials that consider many common CBRNE safety issues and allow for chamber versatility to accommodate evidence items of different sizes.

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This Month's Featured Resource on the Crime Scene Investigator Network Website

The idea of The Fingerprint Sourcebook originated during a meeting at which individuals representing the fingerprint, academic, and scientific communities met in Chicago, Illinois, for a day and a half to discuss the state of fingerprint identification with a view toward the challenges raised by Daubert issues. The meeting was a joint project between the International Association for Identification and West Virginia University. One recommendation that came out of that meeting was a suggestion to create a sourcebook for friction ridge examiners, that is, a single source of researched information regarding the subject. This sourcebook would provide educational, training, and research information for the international scientific community.
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Crime Scene Technician I
Hollywood Police Department, Hollywood, Florida, USA

Final Filing Date: August 23, 2021
Responsible for the identification of fingerprints, collection of evidence, crime scene photography and documentation of crime scene investigations. Work requires the incumbent to testify in Court concerning evidence collected.
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Reno Police Department, Reno, Nevada, USA

Final Filing Date: August 26, 2021
Respond to crime scenes and perform a broad range of investigative tasks to document the crime scene, which may include taking photographs, recovering and processing evidence, and examining latent fingerprints.
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Crime Scene Analyst
Dallas Police Department, Dallas, Texas, USA

Final Filing Date: August 28, 2021
Collects, preserves, processes and/or handles evidence at/from crime scene to assist sworn officers in apprehension and prosecution of crimes.
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Crime Scene Technician
Fayetteville Police Department, Fayetteville, Georgia, USA

Final Filing Date: Open until filled
Responsible for the identification, documentation, collection, processing, and classification of evidence from crime scenes which will lead to the arrest and conviction of responsible parties.
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Forensic Tech II - Firearms
South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division, Columbia, South Carolina, USA

Final Filing Date: August 25, 2021
Receives Integrated Ballistics Identification System (IBIS) related training in the Firearms Department and works IBIS-Only cases, enters data into IBIS, reviews IBIS correlations, provides court testimony,
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Forensic Print Analyst
Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, Tampa, Florida, USA

Final Filing Date: Open until filled
Perform comparisons of latent prints using the Analysis, Comparison, Evaluation, and Verification (ACE-V) method to identify potential suspects.
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Property and Evidence Specialist I
San Diego County Sheriff, San Diego, California, USA

Final Filing Date: August 22, 2021
receive, identify, preserve, record and store property and items of physical evidence; transport property and evidence to and from Sheriff's stations and Main Evidence; and maintains accurate chain of custody records.
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Deputy Coroner I/II
Merced County Sheriffs Department, Merced, California, USA

Final Filing Date: Continuous
Arrange and/or remove bodies from death scene and delivers to morgue or other facilities. Notify and coordinate information with representatives of other criminal justice agencies. Interviews witnesses and relatives to obtain information about the decedent and circumstances of death. Requests various specialists such as forensic pathologist, toxicologists, bacteriologists and other skilled persons to aid in arriving at exact cause of death within defined procedural limits. Completes final cause of death and signs death certificate.
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