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The Identification Division Of The Fbi

The FBI Identification Division was established in 1924 when the

records of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the

Leavenworth Penitentiary Bureau were consolidated in Washington, D.C.

The original collection of only 810,000 fingerprint cards has expanded

into many millions. The establishment of the FBI Identification

Division resulted from the fact that police officials of the Nation

saw the need for a
entralized pooling of all fingerprint cards and

all arrest records.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation offers identification service free

of charge for official use to all law enforcement agencies in this

country and to foreign law enforcement agencies which cooperate in the

International Exchange of Identification Data. Through this

centralization of records it is now possible for an officer to have

available a positive source of information relative to the past

activities of an individual in his custody. It is the Bureau's present

policy to give preferred attention to all arrest fingerprint cards

since it is realized that speed is essential in this service.

In order that the FBI Identification Division can provide maximum

service to all law enforcement agencies, it is essential that standard

fingerprint cards and other forms furnished by the FBI be utilized.

Fingerprints must be clear and distinct and complete name and

descriptive data required on the form should be furnished in all

instances. Fingerprints should be submitted promptly since delay might

result in release of a fugitive prior to notification to the law

enforcement agency seeking his apprehension.

When it is known to a law enforcement agency that a subject under

arrest is an employee of the U.S. Government or a member of the Armed

Forces, a notation should be placed in the space for occupation on

the front of the fingerprint card. Data such as location of agency or

military post of assignment may be added beside the space reserved for

the photograph on the reverse side of the card.

Many instances have been observed where an individual is fingerprinted

by more than one law enforcement agency for the same arrest. This

duplicate submission of fingerprints can be eliminated by placing a

notation on the first set of fingerprints sent to the FBI requesting

copies of the record for other interested law enforcement agencies,

thereby eliminating submission of fingerprints by the latter agencies.

If a photograph is available at the time fingerprints are submitted to

the FBI Identification Division, it should be identified on the

reverse side with the individual's complete name, name of the

department submitting, the department's number, and it should be

securely pasted in the space provided on the fingerprint card. If a

photograph is to be submitted at a later date, it should be held until

the identification record or no record reply from the FBI is

received in order that FBI number or fingerprint classification can be

added to the reverse side of the photograph for assistance of the

Identification Division in relating it to the proper record.

The FBI number, if known, and any request for special handling, such

as collect wire or telephone reply, should be indicated on the

fingerprint card in the appropriate space. Such notations eliminate

the need for an accompanying letter of instructions.

As indicated, the FBI's service is given without cost to regularly

constituted law enforcement agencies and officers. Supplies of

fingerprint cards and self-addressed, franked envelopes will be

forwarded upon the request of any law enforcement officer. The

following types of cards and forms are available: Criminal (Form

FD-249), used for both arrest and institution records; Applicant (Form

FD-258); Personal Identification (Form FD-353); Death Sheet (Form

R-88); Disposition Sheet (Form R-84); Wanted Notice (Form 1-12);

Record of Additional Arrest (Form 1-1). An order form for

identification supplies appears each month with the insert to the FBI

Law Enforcement Bulletin.

In addition to its criminal identification activities, the Bureau's

Identification Division maintains several auxiliary services. Not the

least of these is the system whereby fugitives are identified through

the comparison of fingerprints which are received currently. When a

law enforcement officer desires the apprehension of a fugitive and the

fingerprints of that individual are available, it is necessary only

that he inform the Bureau of this fact so a wanted notice may be

placed in the fugitive's record. This insures immediate notification

when the fugitive's fingerprints are next received.

The fugitive service is amplified by the Bureau's action in

transmitting a monthly bulletin to all law enforcement agencies which

forward fingerprints for its files. In this bulletin are listed the

names, descriptions, and fingerprint classifications of persons wanted

for offenses of a more serious character. This information facilitates

prompt identifications of individuals arrested for any offense or

otherwise located by those receiving the bulletin.

Missing-persons notices are posted in the Identification files so that

any incoming record on the missing person will be noted. Notices are

posted both by fingerprint card and by name, or by name alone if

fingerprints are not available. The full name, date, and place of

birth, complete description and photograph of a missing person should

be forwarded, along with fingerprints, if available. Upon receipt of

pertinent information, the contributing agency is advised immediately.

A section on missing persons is carried as an insert in the Law

Enforcement Bulletin.

The FBI Identification Division has arranged with the identification

bureaus of many foreign countries to exchange criminal identifying

data in cases of mutual interest. Fingerprints and arrest records of

persons arrested in this country are routed to the appropriate foreign

bureaus in cases when the interested agency in the United States has

reason to believe an individual in custody may have a record in or be

wanted by the other nation. Similarly, fingerprints are referred to

the Federal Bureau of Investigation by foreign bureaus when it seems a

record may be disclosed by a search of the Bureau's records. Numerous

identifications, including a number of fugitives, have been effected

in this manner, and it is believed that the complete development of

this project will provide more effective law enforcement throughout

the world. When the facts indicate an individual may have a record in

another country, and the contributor submits an extra set of his

fingerprints, they are transmitted by this Bureau to the proper


In very rare cases persons without hands are arrested. A file on

footprints is maintained in the Identification Division on such


In view of the fact that many individuals in the underworld are known

only by their nicknames, the Identification Division has for years

maintained a card-index file containing in alphabetical order the

nicknames appearing on fingerprint cards. When requesting a search of

the nickname file, it is desired that all possible descriptive data be


The Latent Fingerprint Section handles latent print work. Articles of

evidence submitted by law enforcement agencies are processed for the

development of latent impressions in the Latent Fingerprint Section.

In addition, photographs, negatives, and lifts of latents are

scrutinized for prints of value for identification purposes.

Photographs of the prints of value are always prepared for the FBI's

files and are available for comparisons for an indefinite period.

Should the law enforcement agency desire additional comparisons it

needs only advise the FBI Identification Division, attention Latent

Fingerprint Section, and either name or submit the prints of the new

suspect. It is not necessary to resubmit the evidence. When necessary,

a fingerprint expert will testify in local court as to his findings.

Should a department have any special problems involving the

development or preservation of fingerprints at a crime scene, the

experts are available for suggestions. In connection with the Latent

Fingerprint Section there is maintained a general appearance file of

many confidence game operators. Searches in this file will be made

upon request. In furnishing data on a suspect, the agency should make

sure that complete descriptive data is sent in. Photographs and other

material on individuals who may be identical with those being sought

will be furnished to the interested departments.

During the years many persons have voluntarily submitted their

fingerprints to the Identification Division for possible use in the

case of an emergency. These cards are not filed with the criminal

fingerprints but are maintained separately. Such prints should be

taken on the standard fingerprint form entitled Personal

Identification (Form FD-353). No answer is given to Personal

Identification fingerprint cards.

The fingerprint records of the FBI Identification Division are used

liberally not only by police agencies to obtain previous fingerprint

histories and to ascertain whether persons arrested are wanted

elsewhere, but by prosecutors to whom the information from the

Bureau's files may prove to be valuable in connection with the

prosecution of a case. These records are likewise of frequent value to

the judge for his consideration in connection with the imposition of

sentence. Obviously, the ends of justice may be served most equitably

when the past fingerprint record of the person on trial can be made

known to the court, or information may be furnished to the effect that

the defendant is of hitherto unblemished reputation.

It should be emphasized that FBI identification records are for the

OFFICIAL use of law enforcement and governmental agencies and misuse

of such records by disseminating them to unauthorized persons may

result in cancellation of FBI identification services.