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Water-soaked Fingers

The third and final type of case which may confront the identification

officer concerns the problem of maceration, that is, long immersion of

the fingers in water.

One of the cardinal rules for securing legible impressions is that the

fingers must be dry. Accordingly, in these cases it becomes a matter

of drying the fingers in addition to contending with other

difficulties. Usually the skin on the fingers
absorbs water, swells

and loosens from the flesh within a few hours after immersion.

If an examination discloses the skin to be water-soaked, wrinkled and

pliable, but intact, the first step is to cleanse the skin carefully

as previously described. Next, wipe the fingertip with alcohol,

benzine or acetone, waiting a few seconds for it to dry. The skin is

pulled or drawn tight across the pattern area so that a large wrinkle

is formed on the back of the finger, then the bulb is inked and


If the skin is broken and hanging loose, but its pattern area is

intact, it should be removed from the finger, cleansed and placed in

alcohol or benzine (not acetone) for about a minute, then stretched

carefully over the operator's finger so as to remove any wrinkles. It

may then be printed.

Sometimes the skin is intact on the finger but so wrinkled and hard

that it is not possible to draw it tight for inking. In this case it

may be advisable to inject tissue builder to round out the bulbs for

inking and printing. Should this fail, the ridge detail is

photographed on the finger; or the skin is cut off, flattened between

two pieces of glass and then photographed. Here, again, it must be

pointed out that when the ridge detail does not show on the surface of

the outer skin the underside should be examined, for many times the

detail can be seen clearly. Should this be true, of course, the

underside is photographed.

In cases where it is noted that the outer skin is gone and the finger

is not saturated with water, it is possible to dry the surface

sufficiently for inking and printing purposes by rolling the finger on

a blotter. If this fails, the finger is wiped off with a piece of

cloth which has been saturated with alcohol, benzine or acetone, after

which it may be inked and printed.