Technology and Communication
We know that communication is important in every part of our lives and technology is forever changing the different ways we are able to communicate. Because technology is continuously being advanced the way people communicate in the criminal justice system must evolve to keep up with the current trends. It is important that we keep up with the changing technology in regards to communication because effective communication is the direct result of a successful investigation. The communication capabilities of specialized data bases within the criminal justice system have been affected in a huge way by technology.
Some of the current technologies used in the criminal justice system today are mobile data terminals, automated fingerprint identification system (AFIS), live scan, facial recognition, and iris scan. The two modern technologies that will be discussed are the automated fingerprint identification system and facial recognition. The positive and negative effects of AFIS and facial recognition will also be discussed.
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Fingerprints and facial characteristics have been used by the criminal justice system to indentify criminals for several years.
The patterns found on a person’s fingers and unique features found on their face have several distinguishing characteristics that separate them from the rest of society. These two systems, though effective have been known to take hours or even days to come up with results. Because time is so valuable to the criminal justice system these comparisons need to be done expeditiously because in many cases the time it has taken to match a set of fingerprints to a single person has been the difference between life and death for the accused.
Modern technology has helped in a huge way to speed up this comparison process and has resulted in the setting free of wrongly accused persons and the locking away of the guilty party. Let’s break these two systems down starting with AFIS. AFIS is basically a database where mass amounts of fingerprint images have been stored after being collected from several different sources. There are two different types of sources, known and unknown. Known sources are fingerprints that have been collected from law offenders, military personnel, police officers, banks, and more.
These fingerprints are normally collected when a person is hired by a company or agency that requires a background check as a part of the hiring process. The most common unknown source is those prints collected at a crime scene to be compared with known samples, also known as latent prints. Each set of fingerprints have their own distinct patterns which are determined by a technician that enters them into the database. “Each fingerprint image is ‘filed’ based on its pattern type. ” (Ridges and Furrows. 2004. Par. ) By doing this it speeds up the process because it helps to eliminate all the prints that do not have a similar pattern type in comparison to the sample. Once the matches are made using the database they are reviewed one more time doing it manually and if a match is made those prints are used to identify individuals. It is very important that the matches found by the computer database are manually reviewed to ensure an exact match. Facial recognition is also a very important aspect of communication in the criminal justice system.
Facial recognition is known as “the automatic recognition of a person using distinguishing traits. ” (Woodward et al. 2003. P. 1) Criminal justice professionals load photographs into computers and use these photographs to compare facial characteristics in an effort to make potential matches. There are also those who have acquired the talent of creating sketches of suspects from a description given by a witness. These sketches are then used in place of a photograph to obtain a positive match. The first step in this process is to capture the image either by camera or sketches.
The second and third steps are to identify the face seen in the image and extract several features to create a template that can be used to make a match. The fourth step is to take the templates and make comparisons that will eventually lead to potential matches. There are several features found on and or around the face that make it possible to make a positive match. Some of these features are likely to change and others are not. Those features that are not likely to change are scars, moles, burns, and bone structure. There are also those features that could possibly change, one of which is tattoos.
The only real similarity between the use of facial recognition and finger prints is that they must be manually compared to obtain the highest percentage of accuracy. Using both the database and the naked eye will eliminate all chances of misreading the results in most cases. As beneficial as these new technologies are there are always positive and negative effects to everything in life. The biggest positive effect that AFIS and Facial Recognition have on the criminal justice system is that they save large amounts of time during an investigation.
Technicians are able to save large amounts of information to these databases so that when they process a search for comparison the computer does most of the work by eliminating all of the samples that are far from being the correct match and leaving only those samples that could possibly be the correct one. These databases also reduce the amount of human error that can occur when trying to make a match. The job of operating these databases can be extremely stressful and technicians tend to get rushed as a result of this stress and overlook things that may have lead to the result they were looking for to begin with.
Now let’s go into the negative effects of these technologies. We know that as humans we are imperfect and anything created by humans has the potential to fail at any given time. It is also widely known that computers and servers use large amounts of electricity and have the potential to heat up very fast. If these data bases exceed the allowed temperature at any given time they will go down and this will result in the slowing down of any investigation that may be going on at the time.
Another negative is the fact that these databases do not come with all of the information already installed. Uploading all of the samples takes a substantial amount of time and use of funds that could be used for the completion of other very important tasks. One last negative is the fact that these systems not only cost money to buy and operate, but people must be trained and paid to keep these databases up and running at all times so that progress does not stop in any form. Having well trained technicians is the most efficient way avoids having to deal with any of these negative effects.
If the decision had to be made as to which one of these two databases contained the most reliability it would have to be the automated fingerprint identification system. I say this because we know that there are other technologies out in the world that can be used to make those technologies used by criminal justice professionals less effective. The technology that is being referred to is plastic surgery. It is possible for a person to have their facial features altered in such a way that they cannot be identified as who they truly are through the use of facial recognition databases.
As for fingerprints, the only way that they can be altered is if a person were cut or burned so badly that scaring resulted. There have been several attempts by people over the years to erase their fingerprints, but these attempts have been unsuccessful. Fingerprinting has also been around a lot longer than facial recognition and has been proven to be more accurate than facial recognition. As we know technology is always changing as technicians find new ways to improve the systems that these databases run on. As technology improves the accuracy of AFIS, Facial Recognition, live scan, iris scan, and mobile data terminals will also improve.
One thing to remember is that information must be manually uploaded into these databases so that they can be saved for current or future use. Another thing to remember is that when a potential match is made by using any of the before mentioned databases they must also be manually checked for accuracy. The reason for this is that the odds of two people having identical features is very low which means that results are not guaranteed to be perfect. The best way for agencies to ensure that these databases are used to their full potential is to continually train their technicians on the latest technology and keep the databases current.
Ridges and Furrows. (2004, April 15). Ridges and Furrows – AFIS Page. Retrieved April 5, 2010, from http://ridgesandfurrows.homestead.com/afispage.html Woodward, J., Horn, C., Gatune, J., & Thomas, A. (2003). Biometrics: A Look at Facial Recognition. Retrieved April 5, 2010, from www.rand.org/pubs/documented_briefings/DB396/DB396.pdf Hayeslip, D. (2008, February 1). Evaluability Assessment of Mobile Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS). Retrieved April 5, 2010, from www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/afis.pdf Lennard, C. J. (). The Thin Blue LIne. Retrieved from http://www.policensw.com/info/fingerprints/finger15.html