Aka “Fingerprint Expert”
By: Eliza Morgan and Caitlin Kelley
Our Specialist at Work
• Countless crime scenes are left without further
investigation because of a lack of proper personnel or
• With a fingerprint specialist, small details are caught that
would otherwise be missed by the untrained eye.
•Fingerprints found at a crime scene can be compared with
the prints of suspects. This can solve a crime by placing the
suspect there, placing the suspect with the weapon, etc.
•Even if there aren’t any suspects, prints can develop leads
about the criminal’s size, sex, job, etc.
The three types of fingerprints
1. Latent prints- these are the prints that are hidden to the
naked eye. These are the prints that take the most training
to find and analyze, and that are hardest to make
comparisons with. Most of the time at crime scenes, these
are the prints that a fingerprint specialist is looking for.
Usually need enhancement and need to be somehow lifted
from the crime scene
2. Patent prints- obvious to the human eye. Since they can
already be seen, they are usually photographed and taken
from the scene and don’t need any enhancement
3. Plastic prints- A print that is placed in a material that keeps
the shape of the ridge detail of the print (example material:
melted candle wax). These prints are photographed and
need no enhancement, but specialists are away that other
latent prints may also exist on these materials.
The Fingerprint Patterns Used for Identification
1. Loops (70% of prints encountered): radial loop, ulnar loop
(depending which hand the loop is found on)
2. Whorls (25-35% of prints): plain whorl, central pocket whorl,
double loop whorl, accidental whorl
3. Arches (5% of prints): plain arch, tented arch
Plain whorl Central pocket
loop whorl
Plain arch
Tented arch
Case Study
(An article from the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, 1992)
• In March of 1990, a woman was abused and fatally
• There were minimal clues at the scene, besides a pillow
and a few blood stains.
• At first glance, the case looked hopeless
• However, thanks to the fingerprint specialist, a faint
fingerprint ridge was found imprinted on the blood stains
of the pillow case.
• Without the untrained eye, this small detail would have
been missed, leaving the crime unsolved, or, at the very
least, much harder to solve.
Case Study Details
• With the help of the specialist, the fingerprint details
were enlarged and analyzed, a procedure that would
have otherwise been impossible.
• With this information, a distinct fingerprint was
discovered, and thus the investigators were able to
narrow it down to a a group of people, based on the
DNA analysis from the blood.
• Based on the other leads, investigators then had a clear
idea on who the person could be based on the sound
with Ivan
What exactly does your job entail?
• He examines the fingerprints at all different types of
crime scenes. He goes to a scene and looks for latent
(hidden) prints. “We didn’t used to have computers.”
When he started everything was done manually. But
now, computers are used to search the database for
known prints (prints of people that are already in the
database) and people like him must compare the prints.
• “I’ve seen it all.” He’s been to robberies, burglaries,
murders, sexual assaults, and “anything you can think
of.” It is a fulltime job that he has done for 48 years. He
worked 37 years with the FBI and is now on his 11th year
on his own.
What does the job mean to you?
• “It’s very rewarding.” Those were the first words
from his mouth when asked this question. He gets
to help solve crimes and he doesn’t seem too
upset about the money. It started as “just a job”
and now it has turned in to extra money for Mr.
Futrell. He said he now charges $500 a case
“whether it is something that takes 10 minutes or
four hours.”
What type of training did you need?
• “It has changed a lot since my time. I started back in 1960,
before you were even thought about.” He had to spend 5
years “looking at ink prints, classifying them and putting
them in files before doing latent print work.” When he got to
latent prints he learned how to make them visible with
chemicals and powders. These are prints they look for at the
crime scenes.
• Now, he says, they need to have 4 years of college before
starting training. Though people can have any major it looks
best to have a major in something like chemistry or
biological science. Government agencies hire after training
(an example of one agency that hires fingerprint specialists
is the Army Crime Lab)
Why did you decide to get into this field of work?
• “It was simply a job.” He started when he was 17 and
had no idea what he would be doing. He said, “I
didn’t know if I would be sweeping floors, cleaning
windows, or what.”
Why do you love your job?
• He makes plenty of money
•He has been to over 20 states to help solve crimes.
He also gets to go all throughout the country to teach
because of his job
…But why he loves it the most
“It’s a Sunday, and I’m
here in my workshop
playing with chemicals.
The job never stops and
never gets old.”
• Thanks to forensic specialists such as a “fingerprint expert” and
the technologies that are now available, otherwise helpless
pieces of evidence can now be used to narrowed down the
suspect of a crime to such a large degree that it can either
“make or break” the solving of a case.