It would have been a day sometime way back in the 1970s when I nervously held a fingerprint brush for the time, hoping to solve the big crime of the century, the breaking and entering of private residence where a thief stole a well-used VCR player.
I recall that it was a messy process due to the fact that I’d mopped on the deep black powder much as a rookie house painter would apply a coat of Benjamin Moore primer to the side of an old barn. Even Boss Ross, when using his trusty landscape knife, applied less oil to a canvass than I did fingerprint powder to that broken window pane and surrounding wood trim.
Still, I managed to develop and collect a couple of usable prints. Unfortunately for me, this took place long before the rapid fingerprint matching system that’s now in place. In those days we collected the print, sent it to a fingerprint examiner who used hand and eye to match the print to a known suspect, or not, and would then send us a report that was basically a thumbs-up or thumbs-down. Yes, it was a match to someone, or no it was not. Their typical catchall response was, of course, “inconclusive.”
I honestly believe they had an admin temp assigned to open our paperwork, file it in a holding bin for several months, and pull the evidence out to rubber-stamp each submission with that dreaded “INCONCLUSIVE” text seen so often as their response. I’ve actually lifted prints at crime scene and sent them to the FBI and, in the meantime through other methods, arrested a suspect, testified about the case in court, and had the person go to jail and get out again before receiving a response. INCONCLUSIVE, of course.
But things changed over time, as they do. Techniques became better and better. Crime scene technology and equipment became more user-friendly and delivered more accurate and speedier results. Nowadays, fingerprint comparisons are performed almost within the blink of an eye—even quicker than that irritating FBI temp could whip out the stamp and ink pad.
Thanks to modern technology, law enforcement is now able to lift prints from the skin of humans, from wet surfaces, and much more.
The company that leads the way in these advanced fingerprinting techniques is, of course, Sirchie, the host of the Writers’ Police Academy’s 2019 special event, MurderCon.
I’ve mentioned before that MurderCon instructors are some of the best in the business … in the world, even. But what I think I haven’t stressed to you enough is that these highly-skilled men and women are the representatives and trainers of the company that actually invented/invents these tools, equipment, and processes that you, as MurderCon attendees, will see and learn to use with your very own eyes and hands. And what you’ll see and do are the precise actions and materials taught to top law enforcement investigators from around the world.
Yes, the folks teaching the MurderCon workshops are delivering their material straight from the source of its existence. It simply doesn’t get any better, starting with fingerprinting.
Sirchie, the History
Sirchie was founded in in 1927, in Philadelphia, with the purpose of providing fingerprinting materials to law enforcement. Then, approximately thirty years ago, the company decided to provide instruction and hands-on training to the investigators who often called Sirchie to say they didn’t understand why a product wasn’t working the way it should. So, after conducting a bit of research, Sirchie officials discovered the problem wasn’t the products, it was that they were being used incorrectly by the investigators in the field.
This was the start of Sirchie’s renowned training programs. Their initial instructional courses primarily focused on fingerprinting, of course. After all, their company name at the time was Sirchie Fingerprint Laboratories.
As the company began to develop more and more products and technology to aid crime scene investigators, they began to add other classes and courses.
Today, Sirchie offers 18 unique Crime Scene Technology courses at their Youngsville campus, the site of the 2019 MurderCon special event. This high-level of instruction includes all types of evidence collection, analysis, and preservation. They also offer advanced courses in clandestine grave recovery, blood stain analysis, death investigation, reconstruction of a shooting, chemical and DNA testing of blood and semen, testing of substances suspected to be drugs, footwear analysis, and arson investigation to name a few.
Of course, Sirchie wouldn’t be Sirchie without fingerprinting in their lineup. Therefore, also included in their course material is in-depth, advanced instruction related to fingerprinting. The latest fingerprinting techniques allow latent fingerprints and palm prints to be discovered and collected on a variety of challenging surfaces.
As their product line expanded, Sirchie recruited numerous subject experts to join their training staff, such as a leading expert in blood stain analysis. Another is known as a driving force in successful efforts to identify criminals by matching crime scene fingerprints and now palm prints across data bases.
MurderCon attendees will be treated to hands-on sessions taught by a hand-picked group of Sirchie instructors.
Advanced Fingerprinting at MurderCon
During MurderCon’s highly-detailed fingerprinting classes, the same taught to police investigators and other crime scene investigation professionals (I cannot emphasize this enough), attendees will learn and experience the proper use of oxide, metallic, magnetic, and fluorescent powders for discovering latent fingerprints at crime scenes. Attendees will develop latent prints on a variety of surfaces including paper, glass, plastic, and even textured surfaces, and practice lifting developed latent prints using tape, hinge lifters, gel lifters, and Accutrans.
In addition, class participants will develop latent prints on porous surfaces, including paper and cardboard, utilizing iodine fuming, DFO, and ninhydrin. WPA attendees will learn the proper process sequencing for the maximum retrieval of latent prints and review the chemical principles of how they work. The class will be treated to special demonstration of using cyanoacrylate (superglue) on non-porous paper (carbon).
So, as you can see, attending MurderCon to learn crime scene investigation is akin to attending a light bulb conference featuring classes taught by Thomas Edison and British chemists Warren de La Rue and Joseph Swan.
It’s highly advanced law enforcement training offered to writers, readers, and fans, all made possible by the combined efforts of the Writers’ Police Academy and Sirchie.
Fun Sirchie Fact – DNA-free Fingerprinting
Did you know that it’s possible to lift DNA-free fingerprints?
Well, Sirchie has made it so, and this is a super cool detail for a book!
Sirchie provides DNALP100 DNA-free latent fingerprint lifting kit with fiberglass brush for use in lifting latent fingerprints from crime scenes. This fingerprint lifting kit is certified DNA-free through independent testing.
Why are certified DNA-free products important?
- Advances in collection methods allow for processing of touch DNA
- Prevention of cross contamination
- Proper sterilization techniques allow for certification of items to be free of DNA
Sirchie’s DNA-free products can help in the preservation of the integrity of the investigation and aid in the efficient pursuit of justice.
This fingerprint lifting kit is treated using a scientifically proven DNA destroying process, that penetrates and decontaminates throughout, not just the surface. Each lot is certified through third party testing to ensure each batch processed is DNA free.
All items are packaged to prevent contamination before use, and are meant to be used only once. These DNA free items provide the investigator with the tools to eliminate DNA cross contamination, but still process the scene with the tools that they require.
Registration to this unique training event opens tomorrow, February 24, 2019 at noon EST. Please be ready to sign up at that time. This wildly popular event often sells out, sometimes within a few hours after registration opens. Believe me, you do not want to miss this extremely rare opportunity!