Latent Fingerprint Interoperability Survey

NIJ has funded the Latent Fingerprint Interoperability Survey (LFIOS), the only comprehensive effort to provide a way to establish the level of interoperability of automated fingerprint identification systems (AFIS) maintained by state and local law enforcement agencies for the electronic exchange of latent fingerprint data to support criminal investigations.

This survey is designed to help law enforcement and government administrators, legislators and researchers understand the technological and regulatory barriers affecting automated, cross-jurisdictional interoperability.

Information collected will provide critical data on several areas:

  • The types and functions of fielded AFIS systems in state and local agencies
  • The current policy agreements among jurisdictions to permit the sharing, exchange and searching of latent fingerprints electronically
  • The technological and regulatory factors that affect electronic sharing, exchange and searching of latent fingerprints across various jurisdictions

The LFIOS is motivated in part by the need identified in the 2009 National Research Council report, Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward:

"Great improvement is possible with respect to AFIS interoperability. Many crimes no doubt go unsolved today simply because investigating agencies cannot search across all the individual databases that might hold a suspect's fingerprints or contain a match for an unidentified latent print from a crime scene. It is possible that some perpetrators have gone free because of the limitations on fingerprint searches."[1]

The report noted several nontechnology challenges to achieving interoperability:

  • Convincing federal and state policymakers to mandate nationwide AFIS interoperability
  • Persuading AFIS equipment vendors to cooperate and collaborate with the law enforcement community and researchers to create and use baseline standards for sharing fingerprint image and minutiae data and interfaces that support all searches
  • Providing law enforcement agencies with the resources necessary to develop interoperable AFIS implementations
  • Coordinating jurisdictional agreements and public policies that would allow law enforcement agencies to share fingerprint data more broadly

To make effective use of resources, especially in a fiscal climate of constrained budgets, governments must have access to basic quantitative information on a national scale to gain a deeper understanding of the current situation before making tactical decisions regarding where and how to improve interoperability.

The survey is collecting data about the vendors being used, AFIS use patterns, and jurisdictions with which law enforcement agencies currently share information.

The survey is not targeted at vendors or researchers, although the data gathered from this survey will be valuable to a wide variety of stakeholders. Some of the outcomes of analysis of the survey data will be to quantify and understand interoperability at different levels of geographic or jurisdictional granularity as well as vertical and horizontal search patterns.


[1] National Research Council, Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward Exit Notice, Committee on Identifying the Needs of the Forensic Sciences Community, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2009, 276-277.

Date Created: March 28, 2013