A fingerprint is an impression of the friction ridges of all or any part of the finger. A friction ridge is a raised portion of the epidermis on the palm and fingers or sole and toe skin, consisting of one or more connected ridge units of friction ridge skin. These ridges are sometimes known as “dermal ridges” or “dermal papillae”.
Collected at a crime scene, or on items of evidence from a crime, it can be used in forensic science to identify suspects, victims and other persons who touched a surface. It is one of the most reliable ways to single out a person and has been an important system in crime fighting since 1915. Below are a few points about the value of fingerprints.
- Fingerprints have served all governments worldwide during the past 100 years to provide accurate identification of criminals. No two fingerprints have ever been found identical in many billions of human and automated computer comparisons. Fingerprints are the very basis for criminal history foundation at every police agency.
- Remains the most commonly used forensic evidence worldwide and in most jurisdictions fingerprint examination cases match or outnumber all other forensic examination casework combined.
- Continues to expand as the premier method for identifying persons, with tens of thousands of persons added to fingerprint repositories daily in America alone, far outdistancing similar databases in growth.
- Is claimed to outperform DNA and all other human identification systems to identify more murderers, rapists and other serious offenders (fingerprints are said to solve ten times more unknown suspect cases than DNA in most jurisdictions). The reason behind is that, DNA is not recorded when a person is issued an official identification card. Whereas fingerprints are recorded and can be matched from the crime scene and the initial database.
- Fingerprint identification was the first forensic discipline (in 1977) to formally institute a professional certification program for individual experts, including a procedure for decertifying those making errors. Other forensic disciplines later followed suit in establishing certification programs whereby certification could be revoked for error.