Sometimes it takes real life to remind you how different things can be from the world of fiction. The case in point here is this LA Times story on the sad state of their fingerprint analysis unit, starting with a wrongful arrest and subsequent release of a suspect based on faulty fingerprint evidence*:
"The case offers a stark profile of a high-stakes operation that for years has been marred by inadequate training, antiquated facilities, poor supervision, careless handling of evidence and other shortfalls, according to internal police records and interviews..."
As focus in law enforcement has turned increasingly to the promise of
DNA analysis to solve crimes, the fingerprint unit has languished as a
neglected but heavily used cornerstone of the LAPD.
It operates 24
hours a day, seven days a week, with about 80 forensic print
specialists rotating through three shifts.
They are summoned by detectives to roughly 24,000 crime scenes every year and about 60% of the time are able to collect fingerprints..."
"...much still needs to be done to improve the efficiency and ensure the
accuracy of the unit's work, said LAPD Deputy Chief Charlie Beck, who
heads a recently formed task force investigating the fingerprint unit.
"It is a place that has been overlooked and pushed into a corner," he said. "That has to change."
The whole article is a sobering read, and in sharp contrast to the impression most of us might have, of the folks who do this type of work, from years of watching crime-procedural shows like CSI, NCIS and others.
More importantly, it highlights how having the right management capabilities and processes can be such a life and death matter in this important corner of law enforcement.