Without a doubt the fingerprint examiner has more than enough to do within the laboratory without having to seek more responsibilities outside the laboratory. Nonetheless, it is extremely desirable for the fingerprint examiner to be at the crime scene. This is because the fingerprint examiner is the only person capable of assessing a fingerprint's potential identification value. If present, the examiner can decide at the scene whether a fingerprint is worthy of enhancement or if on-scene enhancement is sufficient.
It is certainly true that crime scene personnel who are not qualified as fingerprint comparison experts can locate, develop, and document (photograph and/or lift) fingerprints. The best-case scenario, however, is that the fingerprint examiner accomplishes the entire process from start to finish. For one thing this means that only one person has to give court testimony about fingerprint evidence. For another having one less person in the chain of custody of the evidence minimizes the possibility of its loss or contamination.
There are times when having the fingerprint examiner at the scene is critical. One example is when crucial fingerprint evidence must be collected at the scene because the object the print is on is not readily removable. Another instance is when investigators need to eliminate prints belonging to persons with legitimate access to the scene in order to isolate prints that possibly belong to suspects. Ultimately the fingerprint examiner is the person who will be making the comparison of any fingerprints recovered to any suspects. The location and documentation of fingerprints at the crime scene can therefore become an issue at trial, and the fingerprint examiner is the most logical person to testify about such issues.
Because of the necessity to document fingerprint evidence photographically, it is not uncommon for fingerprint examiners to have expertise in photography. This makes for a good situation at crime scenes, since one person can do both the photography and the fingerprint work. Because fingerprint examiners are trained to pay attention to minute details, they make excellent crime scene investigators in general.
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