Forensic Spotlight

A New Investigative Biometric Service: The National Palm Print System

By Gary L. Williams
Stock image of a man in a dark jacket handcuffed behind his back.

Prior to May 2013 the legacy Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) did not have the capability to store or launch a search against palm prints. The Next Generation Identification (NGI) System provides a new investigative biometric service—the National Palm Print System (NPPS). This system dramatically improves law enforcement access to palm prints previously stored within federal, state, tribal, and local law enforcement databases.

In less than a 2-year time span, the NPPS has accumulated more than six million palm prints, providing an additional resource for searching latent palm prints collected from crime scenes or disaster sites. Over 500,000 palm print candidates have been returned to assist latent examiners’ investigations when latent image or feature searches were conducted.

In addition to palm print receipts from federal, state, tribal, and local agencies, the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division, Latent and Forensic Support Unit (LFSU) is converting hard copy major-case prints through a complex process known as “digital image conversion.” The ingestion of high-priority, high-profile, major-case palm prints collected from known and suspected terrorists at detainee camps in Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistan, Iraq, and other places of interest permits images from these individuals to be available for latent search purposes. These efforts directly impact national security and potentially will result in increased identifications from the NGI System. Approximately 40,000 high-profile palm prints have been entered into NPPS.

LFSU collaborates with the Advisory Policy Board’s (APB) Identification Services Coordination Group (ISCG) latent subject matter experts to identify best practices for capturing and submitting palm prints for successful enrollment into the NGI System.1 Additionally, LFSU represents CJIS on the newly established Palm Print Enrollment Review Committee, a subgroup of APB’s Identification Services Subcommittee. This group was established to review and consider alternative palm validation processes because many agencies do not capture distals.     

To support the future growth and integrity of the NPPS, LFSU performs an intensive review of palm prints submitted by authorized agencies. Analysis of the daily enrollments and nonenrollments has allowed agencies to take corrective measures within their vendor systems, capture equipment, and trained personnel. These combined initiatives will continue to have a positive impact on the expansion of the national repository and provide a reliable investigative resource for law enforcement agencies to solve additional crimes. For more information relating to the National Palm Print Repository, please contact LFSU’s Research, New Initiatives, and Standards Team at 304-625-2849.

Mr. Williams is a supervisory management and program analyst with the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division, Latent and Forensic Support Unit in Clarksburg, West Virginia.


Federal Bureau of Investigation, Criminal Justice Services Division, “The CJIS Advisory Process: A Shared Management Concept,” (accessed May 19, 2015).