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City medical examiner will fingerprint all bodies    it examines


By Susan Edelman  Sunday May 25, 2014



It’s Big Brother beyond the grave.

The city Medical Examiner’s Office has begun fingerprinting everybody it examines — even if the corpse is identified by next of kin, The Post has learned.

The “mandatory” or “comprehensive” fingerprinting, as the ME calls it, will bolster a statewide electronic database that law-enforcement agencies use to help solve crimes, or possibly track terrorists.










It also underscores a further erosion of privacy to serve the common good, experts say.


“We give up another piece of our liberty and get more intrusion by the government,” said Vernon Geberth, a retired NYPD commander of the Bronx Homicide Task Force. “I really think ‘1984’ has come to fruition in 2014.”


Previously, the ME took fingerprints, or used other forensics such as dental records, if a relative could not positively identify a corpse.


Now, all bodies the ME examines — in homicides, suicides, accidents, car crashes and other “unnatural” cases such as drug overdoses and medical-treatment complications — will have their fingerprints scanned and run through the state’s database.

“They’re fingerprinting everybody,” an ME insider said.


ME spokeswoman Julie Bolcer said the office has purchased “live scans” — electronic devices that digitally capture fingerprints — for morgues in every borough and trained technicians to use them.

“They put the [dead person’s] finger on the screen. It’s a very quick procedure, and clean. There’s no ink involved,” the staffer said.

Former Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Michael Baden was unaware of the new mandatory fingerprinting. He questioned its justification in the 95 percent of ME cases in which the body is visually identified or if not a homicide victim — and its legality.


“I’m sure there’s a privacy issue if the results are going into some databank that is public. The family may not want them to do that,” Baden said.

Bolcer said the office launched the initiative in October and has fingerprinted about 3,000 bodies.

She said coroners in San Diego, Houston and other cities fingerprint all bodies.


“Comprehensive fingerprinting was started to bring the identification practices of our agency to the highest scientific standards and to make the process more efficient and accommodating for families.”

The prints are also submitted to the state Division of Criminal Justice Services, which runs a database used by cops.


“From an investigative perspective, it allows data mining,” said Geberth, author of the textbook “Practical Homicide Investigation.”