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WASELENKOFF ACQUITTED: Why police sometimes fail to get fingerprints

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May 16, 2015 - 12:57 PM

KAMLOOPS — When he acquitted a retired Kamloops school teacher of possession of child pornography, a Kamloops Supreme Court justice said the Crown provided no direct link between Jerry Waselenkoff and a stack of compact discs stashed in the floorboards below his apartment.

Police managed to get fingerprints off the CDs but unlike typical crime dramas on TV, a trained officer tried twice — and still failed — to get a readable print from Waselenkoff himself.

Forensic investigator Cpl. Tammy Penner told the court she tried three different methods, including a technique used to get fingerprints from corpses, to get a print from Waselenkoff.

"There was either distortion or smearing. Nothing that would be sufficient in order to compare,” she said.

Court never heard specifically why Waselenkoff’s prints failed at the Kamloops detachment. Penner never prepared an official report on her efforts.

Cpl. Jason Epp, a spokesperson for the Kamloops RCMP detachment, couldn't speak about this case in particular but said in general, while it's rare, there are cases when prints don't turn out. A useable print requires a series of ridge formations on each finger.

“They need a set number of points (for comparison),” he said.

He said a person's age, scars, even employment could impact a print.

"People like mechanics and people who do a lot of heavy manual labour are very difficult to get fingerprints from,” he said.

Epp said traditional inking is on its way out as the detachment moves towards a digital system. He said city cells will receive a new machine to scan prints in the coming months.

‘It’s a monster machine,” he said. “It gives you that definition where the ink might not have before."

Arshi Khosa works in fingerprinting services with Commissionaires B.C. She says not everyone has a perfect print on the digital printing system.

Some people’s prints fail for a variety of reasons, Khosa said. 

“A couple of weeks ago, we had a girl who had eczema (fail). There was nothing she could do about it,” she said.

Khosa said in the event of repeated digital fails, the company submits traditional ink prints to the RCMP.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Glynn Brothen at gbrothen@infonews.ca, or call 250-319-7494. To contact the editor, email mjones@infonews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015
InfoTel News Ltd

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