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Title: An industrial revolution for fingerprint science? : the impact of cognition and human factors on fingerprint examiners : implications for the use of fingerprint examiner expertise and administration within law enforcement
Author: Charlton, David
Awarding Body: Bournemouth University
Current Institution: Bournemouth University
Date of Award: 2011
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Fingerprint analysis has been a cornerstone of law enforcement investigation for well over 100 years (Block 1970, Duncan 1942, Holt 1936, Beavan 2001, Sengoopta 2003, Cooke 1932 and Charlton et al 2007). Fingerprint evidence has rarely been challenged by either the public or the judicial system. However, the people entrusted to perform the analysis of fingerprints are increasingly being seen as the weak link in the chain of evidence by some commentators (Schneier 2003). Factors that affect the mind and its cognitive processes such as context and emotional state have an impact on decision making associated with a multitude of human endeavours including the medical and the military professions. This has been largely ignored by the forensic domain at large and by fingerprint examination specialists in particular. Errors in the analysis of fingerprint evidence in high profile cases such as Shirley McKie and Brandon Mayfield (Thompson et al 2005, Zeelenburg 2008, McKie 2007) have resulted latterly in legal counsel, media and the public asking whether fingerprint examination is valid and safe forensic science (Saks et al 2005). Psychologists have highlighted potential weaknesses in the policing domain and continue to make recommendations for improvement in order to minimise the risk of wrongful convictions (Adler 2004). This thesis suggests that fingerprint examiners are not only emotionally driven and motivated to achieve results, but also that the motivations of examiners (Kruglanski et al 1983, Kruglanski et al 1987, Kruglanski 1989) exert leverage upon decision making thresholds. The consistency of fingerprint examiner observations during the analysis of fingerprints is also observed, in addition to the performance of fingerprint examiners during their interaction with colleagues and technology. This thesis provides evidence of systemic practitioner inconsistency based on process and procedural weaknesses based on the cognitive realities that pervade the very nature of the work the human fingerprint examiners carry out. Through understanding of the human factors that impact upon the fingerprint examiner domain it has been possible in this thesis to offer insight and intervention that can mitigate against error and methodological breakdown of fingerprint analysis in the future, as well as to facilitate the design and implemetation of effective and robust recruitment, selection and training environments. In addition this thesis provides recommendations to facilitate the provision of fit for purpose technologies that are able to provide best practice for examiners and to satisfy public confidence in not only fingerprint examination but also other forensic and more generic expert policing domains.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available