the known case circumstances. Probabilities and population statistics should not be used in the interpretation of microscopic hair comparisons. Databases, from which population statistics can be generated (as is done in DNA analysis), are not practical or realistic for hair analysis.


In 1995, the FBI created a Technical Working Group on Friction Ridge Analysis, Study, and Technology (TWGFAST). The group was renamed as a Scientific Working Group (SWGFAST) in 1998 and has continued to provide guidelines on finger print evidence, with funding from the FBI. Additionally, a National Institute of Justice grant has supported the development of a forthcoming SWGFAST reference manual.

The SWGFAST bylaws allow for up to 40 members and require biannual meetings. Members have included agency employees from federal, state, local, and foreign bodies and from the academic and private sectors. Proposed guidelines are released to the community for comment after receiving an affirmative vote by two-thirds of the SWGFAST members present at a meeting. A draft document is adopted following community review and feedback, if two-thirds of the members present at a meeting again vote in favor of such action. Accepted guidelines are reconsidered five years after adoption. Existing SWGFAST guidelines address automation training, digital imaging, friction ridge analysis for latent print examination, latent print proficiency testing, professional conduct, minimum qualifications and competency for latent print trainees, quality assurance, interpretation and conclusions, and validation research.f

Like all other SWG documents, SWGFAST’s guidelines have no inherent authority or force of law. However, in collaboration with academic institutions, law enforcement agencies, and industry, SWGFAST has participated in the development of a standard data format for the Interchange of Finger print, Facial, & Scar Mark and Tattoo Information, through the American National Standard for Information Systems-NIST (ANSI-NIST-ITL 1-2007). Additionally, crime laboratories have purportedly relied on SWGFAST guidelines in order to meet the ASCLD/LAB accreditation Standards.g


a N. Santos. 2007. “Drug Identification.” Presentation to the committee. April 23, 2007.


b P. Striupaitis, Chair, IAI Firearm/Toolmark Committee, and member, SWGGUN. Presentation to the committee. April 23, 2007.


c Ibid.


d R.E. Bisbing, Executive Vice President, McCrone Associates, Inc., and member SWGMAT. Presentation to the committee. April 24, 2007.


e S. Meagher, Fingerprint Specialist, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Vice-Chair SWGFAST. Presentation to the committee. April 24, 2007.


f See


g Meagher, op. cit.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement