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THE JOB People trying to conceal their identity can change their name, dye their hair, or move to another location, but they cannot change their own fingerprints. These distinctive skin ridges remain for a lifetime. The identification of people through the examination, classification, and searching of fingerprints is the job of the FINGERPRINT CLASSIFIER, also known as Fingerprint Examiner, Identification Specialist/ Technician, Forensic Specialist/Technician, Latent Fingerprint Analyst, or Fingerprint Expert. Law enforcement agencies routinely fingerprint arrested persons to find out their true identity, to determine if they are wanted for crimes in another jurisdiction, and to disclose any past criminal record. Applicants for jobs requiring security clearance and those applying for licenses and permits are also fingerprinted to protect the public. In city and county police departments, most Fingerprint Classifiers work mainly with solving burglaries and robberies. In the field, Latent Fingerprint Analysts search a given area to locate, photograph, and lift fingerprints. They also search for latent prints at crime scenes and run these through the automated files of fingerprint images of known subjects. The Classifier may also take the fingerprints of corpses and appear in court as an expert witness. Fingerprint classification begins with determining the various types of fingerprint patterns. Fingerprints are grouped into four distinct patterns, each further divided into subgroups by means of subtle and minute differences within each group. A person's fingerprints are obtained on an 8" x 8" card by inking each fingertip and making an impression on the card. The name, birthdate, height, weight, hair and eye color, and other information such as occupation, identifying scars, marks, and tattoos are recorded on the fingerprint card. One of the major job duties of the fingerprint classifier is to positively identify people. When originally developed, the science of fingerprint identification required manually classifying and searching hundreds of thousands of fingerprint cards to find fingerprints matching those on the card being searched. If no match was found, the card was filed under its unique classification. Modern computer technology has been applied to the science and requires classifiers to access automated files containing both demographic (age, sex, year of birthdate, etc.) as well as images of fingerprint patterns. The classifier codes the fingerprint card, loads it into an image scanner, and waits for the results. The California Identification ("Cal-ID") System automated file contains the computerized fingerprint images of nearly eight million subjects and is maintained by the California Department of Justice, Bureau of Criminal Identification and Information in Sacramento. It is used statewide by law enforcement agencies in cities and counties who do not have their own computerized systems. In addition, the fingerprints of 2 million subjects are maintained in the Department of Justice's manual files. The Los Angeles Police Department has its own computerized file with over 1.5 million prints on file. WORKING CONDITIONS The examination and classification of fingerprint patterns are exacting work. When using the automated process, most of the work is done sitting at a computer. Manual searches are conducted with the aid of a magnifying glass. Fingerprint Classifiers who work in the field must be able to walk, bend, and stoop at a variety of crime scenes. EMPLOYMENT OUTLOOK The State of California Bureau of Criminal Identification and Information (CCI) located in Sacramento employs about 105 Identification Specialists from entry-level technicians through the supervisory levels. Many city and county police departments like the Los Angeles and Sacramento Police Departments employ a staff of Fingerprint Classifiers; however, in some communities, such as the City of San Francisco, police officers, deputy sheriffs, and clerical workers take fingerprints and investigate them using existing computer and manual systems. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) does not employ Fingerprint Classifiers within California; instead, local agents lift prints and send them to Washington, D.C., where they are classified and investigated. WAGES, HOURS, AND FRINGE BENEFITS Classifiers employed by the California Department of Justice, Bureau of Criminal Identification and Information earn from $2,244 to $3,523 per month as Criminal Identification Specialists. Wages for county and city employees in this classification vary from area to area within the state. All jobs are civil service positions. The salary for FBI Fingerprint Classifiers ranges from about $26,000 to $36,000 per year. Working hours for those employed by Police or Sheriff's Departments could be day, swing or night shift. Fringe benefits of sick leave, vacation pay, medical and dental insurance, and retirement pay are offered by most employers. ENTRANCE REQUIREMENTS AND TRAINING A high school education or its equivalent is usually required of applicants. Candidates for these positions will probably compete through taking a civil service exam. Some agencies may also require an associate of arts degree or several units of criminology, law enforcement, or police science. There are also agencies who will only accept persons who have worked in the Fingerprint Section in some capacity such as Records or Fingerprint Clerk. Fingerprint courses of one to two weeks duration are occasionally given both at community colleges throughout California and by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and may be helpful for promotional purposes. Computer courses, as well as basic courses, would be valuable in this occupation. Because chemicals are involved in the science of lifting fingerprints, courses in chemistry and health and safety would also be helpful. Special qualifications that may also be required by individual agencies include: proof of good eyesight and memory, a valid California driver's license, and the ability to type. Any person with an arrest record other than minor traffic citations will usually not be hired. ADVANCEMENT Promotion in most government agencies is by civil service examination. State civil service positions begin with the Criminal Identification Specialist job series and advance into positions in criminal intelligence. In some law enforcement agencies, there is limited chance for advancement unless a person is a police officer or Fingerprint Clerk. FINDING THE JOB Law enforcement agencies hire from civil service lists created by competitive examination. Information about civil service job announcements and testing may be obtained from the appropriate city, county, state and federal civil service commission or personnel departments. ADDITIONAL SOURCES OF INFORMATION International Association for Identification 2535 Pilot Knob Rd., Suite 117 Mendota Heights, MN 55120 (612) 681-8566 http://www.theiai.org/ International Association of Chiefs of Police, Inc. 515 N. Washington Street Alexandria, VA 22314 (703) 836-6767 http://www.theiacp.org For information on jobs with the federal government, contact the nearest U.S. Office of Personnel Management Job Information Center, or their Internet home page, www.opm.gov. RELATED OCCUPATIONAL GUIDES Law Enforcement Occupations No. 457 Crime and Intelligence Analysts No. 557 Criminalists No. 558 OCCUPATIONAL CODE REFERENCES DOT (Dictionary of Occupational Titles, 4th Ed., 1991) Fingerprint Classifier 375.387-010 OES (Occupational Employment Statistics) System Other Professional, Para-professional, and Technical Workers 399990 Source: State of California, Employment Development Department, Labor Market Information Division, Information Services Group, (916) 262-2162.Note: This is NOT a job opening. The purpose of This California Occupational Guide is to provide you with useful information to help you make career decisions. If you are searching for a job, go to:
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