however, based on the fact that they were so faint
they possibly could have been wiped out by any
further handling or may have lost enough moisture
to make them too faint to identify. This is only one
of many cases I could cite.
I understand that most departments don’t have
I.D. Units who come out and process scenes for
latent prints, however, there is a solution. The
backbone of every police department is its patrol
division. I got my start, processing for latent impressions, while working midnights on patrol. The shift
commander was looking for volunteers to be trained
by our I.D. technician. I signed up with three other
guys. Back then we rarely knew how successful we
were due to the fact that the prints were sent to the
lab, however, we were developing numerous latent
impressions at scenes.
A patrol fingerprint kit is easy to put together
and is relatively inexpensive. A kit would consist
of black and silver fingerprint powders, fingerprint
brushes, black and white backing cards, lifting tape,
an eraser (used for rubbing the tape to eliminate air
bubbles), and disposable gloves. These kits could also
be made for detectives.
Another area we are looking into is the use of a
portable cyanoacrylate fuming chamber for use at
crime scenes. A neighboring department has had
success fuming handguns at scenes and developing
latent impressions. My partner conducted a fuming
experiment with her daughter for a school project.
They deposited latent prints on five similar objects
and fumed them at different times. The first item
was fumed immediately with the others fumed at
increased time increments up to a couple of days. As
expected the results showed that there was much less
detail on the latent impressions as the time before
In conclusion it is essential to have first responding officers trained in the development of latent
prints when no one else is available.
Detective William Oakley ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is a
Forensic Analyst with the West Haven Police Department
in Connecticut. He has 25 years of experience in all facets
of law enforcement most recently specializing in fingerprint
development and analysis, crime scene reconstruction, blood
stain pattern analysis, and shooting reconstruction.