Re “Report urges overhaul of crime lab system,” Feb. 19
The Times’ article about the National Academy of Sciences’ report on forensic science was excellent.
However, one area of the report -- and your coverage -- leaves an incorrect impression: the reference to “fingerprints” that lumps all fingerprint analyses together.
There is a vast difference between attempting to positively match a partial single fingerprint to an individual and matching a complete set of fingerprints against another full set of fingerprints.
There are ample data to show that the probability of a false 10-print identification is lower than one in 6 billion. But attempts to positively identify a person from a fragment of a single fingerprint lack scientific validity.
That distinction needs to be made so there is clarity that full fingerprint-based background checks and arrestee identifications (and resulting criminal histories) are completely reliable.
The writer is a retired commanding officer in the Records and Identification Division of the Los Angeles Police Department.