The Department of Justice announced today the first 10 tribes to participate in an initial User Feedback Phase of the Tribal Access Program for National Crime Information (TAP), a program to provide federally recognized tribes the ability to access and exchange data with national crime information databases for both civil and criminal purposes.
The User Feedback Phase will grant access to national crime information databases and technical support to the following tribes: the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians of North Carolina, the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community of Michigan, the Oneida Indian Nation of New York, the Pascua Yaqui Tribe of Arizona, the Suquamish Indian Tribe of the Port Madison Reservation of Washington, the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes of the Fort Hall Reservation of Idaho, the Tulalip Tribes of Washington, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla of Oregon and the White Mountain Apache Tribe of the Fort Apache Reservation of Arizona.
“This innovative program will allow an unprecedented sharing of critical information between tribal, state and federal governments, information that could help solve a crime or even save someone’s life,” said Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates. “This initial phase of TAP will help us understand the information gaps and the best ways to use this service to strengthen public safety in Indian country. The TAP program is a reflection of the Justice Department’s commitment to the government-to-government relationship, to overcoming barriers, and building strong partnerships with American Indian and Alaska Native people. The department will continue to work with Congress for additional funding to more broadly deploy the program.”
TAP will support tribes in analyzing their needs for national crime information and help provide appropriate solutions, including a state-of-the-art biometric/biographic computer workstation with capabilities to process finger and palm prints, take mugshots and submit records to national databases, as well as the ability to access the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Service (CJIS) systems for criminal and civil purposes through the Department of Justice. TAP will also provide specialized training and assistance for participating tribes.
This initial phase, funded by the Office of Justice Programs’ Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering and Tracking (SMART) and supported with technical assistance from the Office of the Chief Information Officer, will focus on assisting tribes that have law enforcement agencies. In the future, the department will seek to address the needs of the remaining tribes and find a long-term solution.
While in the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010 Congress required the Attorney General to ensure that tribal officials that meet applicable requirements be permitted access to national crime information databases, the ability of tribes to fully participate in national criminal justice information sharing via state networks has been dependent upon various regulations, statutes and policies of the states in which a tribe’s land is located. Therefore, improving access for tribal law enforcement to federal crime information databases has been a departmental focus for several years. In 2010, the department instituted two pilot projects, one biometric and one biographic, to improve informational access for tribes. The biographic pilot continues to serve more than 20 tribal law enforcement agencies.
Departments of Justice and Interior Working Group
In 2014, the Departments of Justice and the Interior (DOI) formed a working group to assess the impact of the pilots and identify long-term sustainable solutions that address both criminal and civil needs of tribes. The outcome of this collaboration was the TAP, as well as an additional program by the DOI’s Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) that provides tribes with national crime information prior to making child placement decisions in emergency circumstances. Under the BIA Purpose Code X Program, social service agencies of federally recognized tribes will be able to view criminal history information accessed through BIA’s Office of Justice Services, which will conduct name-based checks in situations where parents are unable to care for their children.