The Report of the Expert Working Group on Human Factors in Latent Print Analysis -- Latent Print Examination and Human Factors: Improving the Practice through a Systems Approach

NIST Interagency/Internal Report (NISTIR) - 7842

248 Pages Posted: 22 Jan 2020

See all articles by David H. Kaye

David H. Kaye

PSU - Penn State Law (University Park); ASU - College of Law & School of Life Sciences

Date Written: February 15, 2012


The U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) asked 34 forensic scientists, latent print examiners, forensic laboratory directors, psychologists, statisticians, engineers, law professors, and other experts* to prepare a scientific review and offer recommendations regarding human factors in the forensic analysis of latent prints. The findings are presented in the following chapters, which are followed by a list of all recommendations and an extensive bibliography:

• Chapter 1 provides an overview of the Analysis, Comparison, Evaluation, and Verification (ACE-V) process for the examination of latent prints. • Chapter 2 outlines the general ideas behind human factors and organizational theory. It also addresses the nature of errors in latent print analysis, the reasons for identifying them or measuring their prevalence, and possible ways to estimate accuracy and error rates. • Chapter 3 describes, defines, and clarifies the interpretative stages of latent print comparisons. In addition, it describes the current state of knowledge, based upon published research, and discusses what this research suggests about potential concerns and pitfalls in the interpretive process. • Chapter 4 surveys new and forthcoming methods, technologies, and techniques. It examines research needs and ways to improve existing technologies for recording and storing exemplars, for utilizing automated searches to locate exemplars for further comparison, and for conducting latent print examinations. • Chapter 5 addresses written reports that summarize and document the results of friction skin impression examinations. Best practices in report writing and documentation increase the likelihood that the evidence is scientifically accurate and will be used appropriately in the administration of criminal justice. The chapter describes the purposes and value of reporting and documenting examinations and makes suggestions regarding the content of these materials. Appendices provide examples of sample reports. • Chapter 6 discusses trial and pretrial communications from the expert to lawyers, judges, and juries. It reviews the more important legal rules and principles that apply to these activities and surveys the types of testimony that might be provided at trial. • Chapter 7 focuses on the conditions under which latent print work is performed that can affect quality in the latent print examination process. It considers issues such as scheduling, lighting, workstations, interruptions, and workplace design. • Chapter 8 reviews the current status of education and training for latent print examiners, requirements and evaluation criteria, and curricula. • Chapter 9 focuses on the role of management in developing and maintaining the system for producing high-quality results. It reviews the components of a quality organization focused on latent print analysis. These include management, personnel, accreditation, certification, proficiency testing, and a systems approach to error identification and mitigation. • Chapter 10 summarizes the most important parts of the preceding chapters. It draws the recommendations from Chapters 3 through 9 into categories that may be helpful for latent print examiners, managers, research funding agencies, researchers, policymakers, and jurists.

* The members of the Working Group were David H. Kaye (editor-in-chief), Thomas Busey (editorial committee), Melissa R. Gische (editorial committee), Gerry LaPorte editorial committee), Colin Aitken, Susan Ballou, Leonard Butt, Christophe Champod, David Charlton, Itiel E. Dror, Jules Epstein, Robert J. Garrett, Max M. Houck, Edward J. Imwinkelried, Ralph Keaton, Glenn Langenburg, Deborah A. Leben, Alice Maceo, Kenneth F. Martin, Jennifer L. Mnookin, Cedric Neumann, Joe Polski, Maria Antonia Roberts, Scott A. Shappell, Lyle Shaver, Sargur N. Srihari, Hal S. Stern, David Stoney, Anjali Swienton, Mary Theofanos, Robert M. Thompson, John Vanderkolk, Maria Weir, and Kasey Wertheim.

Keywords: human factors, error, cognitive bias, fingerprint, forensic latent print examination, forensic science, interpretation, expert evidence

Suggested Citation

Kaye, David H., The Report of the Expert Working Group on Human Factors in Latent Print Analysis -- Latent Print Examination and Human Factors: Improving the Practice through a Systems Approach (February 15, 2012). NIST Interagency/Internal Report (NISTIR) - 7842, Available at SSRN: or

David H. Kaye (Contact Author)

PSU - Penn State Law (University Park)

Lewis Katz Building
University Park, PA 16802
United States


ASU - College of Law & School of Life Sciences ( email )

111 E Taylor St.
Phoenix, AZ 85004
United States


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