What Does a Fingerprint Examiner Do?

Erin Oxendine
Erin Oxendine
A white powder might be used to dust for fingerprints on a dark surface.
A white powder might be used to dust for fingerprints on a dark surface.

A fingerprint examiner is a very significant part of an investigation. An examiner analyzes fingerprints and attempts to make a determination as to the owner of the prints. These professionals work for government agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) or for local law enforcement divisions.

Some of the duties a professional fingerprint examiner performs include dusting for fingerprints and gathering physical evidence from crime scenes. Fingerprinting is performed by placing a fine powder onto the object to collect the prints. The magnetic dust forms the image of a print, which can be seen under light. The examiner may also have to remove certain objects from the scene to further analyze at a crime lab.

A fingerprint examiner is a law enforcement specialist who works with fingerprints as part of investigations.
A fingerprint examiner is a law enforcement specialist who works with fingerprints as part of investigations.

Fingerprint examiners also work with immigration officials in order to fingerprint people coming in and out of the country. People have to provide their prints at major points of entry in order to verify identity. Fingerprint identification is necessary to control immigration and prevent criminals from illegally entering the country. It is up to the immigrations agency for that jurisdiction to determine if a person meets the proper guidelines.

A fingerprint examiner gathers evidence at a crime scene.
A fingerprint examiner gathers evidence at a crime scene.

Other tasks the examiner is responsible for are researching and identifying fingerprints by using a computer database. When a fingerprint is taken from a crime scene, the fingerprint is uploaded into a national fingerprint index. Most agencies in the United States use a program called the Automated Fingerprint Identification System. Various law enforcement officials can access fingerprints on this system, making it easier to connect criminals to crimes in other locations.

A fingerprinting kit is commonly used to examine evidence from crime scenes.
A fingerprinting kit is commonly used to examine evidence from crime scenes.

A fingerprint examiner may have to go to court to provide testimony in a criminal matter. The examiner may have to identify the alleged criminal’s fingerprint and give details about the criminal’s unique fingerprint map. Testimony from the examiner could be the deciding factor in proving a person’s innocence or guilt by placing the criminal at the scene of a crime.

Most fingerprint examiners have formal training in evidence processing as well as fingerprint review. Examiners must also possess a certification from an approved trade school or community college. Several universities offer latent fingerprint certificates under the criminal justice or forensic science curriculum.

New technology may help an examiner’s job become a little easier. Scientists at the University of California are developing a technique for fingerprint identification based on the chemical residue left by a person’s fingers. If prints are on an object, the fingerprint examiner can see these in color by using a light similar to one used in an x-ray machine.

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Discussion Comments

anon274969

How would I go about finding the number of fingerprint examiners employed in the United States?

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    • A white powder might be used to dust for fingerprints on a dark surface.
      A white powder might be used to dust for fingerprints on a dark surface.
    • A fingerprint examiner is a law enforcement specialist who works with fingerprints as part of investigations.
      A fingerprint examiner is a law enforcement specialist who works with fingerprints as part of investigations.
    • A fingerprint examiner gathers evidence at a crime scene.
      A fingerprint examiner gathers evidence at a crime scene.
    • A fingerprinting kit is commonly used to examine evidence from crime scenes.
      A fingerprinting kit is commonly used to examine evidence from crime scenes.