Today, the Department of Justice and the Pascua Yaqui Tribe announced the tribe has officially begun to access and exchange critical law enforcement data with national crime information databases, a step forward in joint federal-tribal efforts to strengthen community safety, solve crimes, protect law enforcement and provide efficient services to local governments, such as pre-employment background checks.
The Pascua Yaqui Tribe, located near Tucson, Arizona, is one of 9 tribes to participate in the initial User Feedback Phase of the Department of Justice’s 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.
“With this initiative, tribal law enforcement agencies within our District will have the same access to critical information as our metropolitan agencies,” said U.S. Attorney John S. Leonardo for the District of Arizona.
“The bottom line is that the TAP will close gaps and loopholes in our tribal criminal justice system and help us protect our community and we are thankful for the collaboration with our federal and state partners,” said Pascua Yaqui Tribal Chairman Robert Valencia.
“It is our hope that TAP can minimize the national crime information gap and drive a deeper and more meaningful collaboration between the federal, state, local and tribal criminal justice communities,” said Justice Department Chief Information Officer Joseph F. Klimavicz.
The Pascua Yaqui Tribe currently prosecutes crimes committed by non-Indians in domestic violence cases on the reservation through the exercise of Special Domestic Violence Criminal Jurisdiction (SDVCJ), established most recently by the 2013 Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The exercise of SDVCJ authority has exposed many gaps in justice information access and sharing, for tribes and off-reservation state agencies. TAP will help remedy these gaps.
First, the TAP will allow the tribe to enter tribal orders of protection to the National Criminal Information Center (NCIC), a national electronic database, which will provide off-reservation law enforcement agencies electronic access to enforce these orders of protection if violated off-reservation. Currently, tribal orders of protection are only enforceable off-reservation if the victim has a copy of the order of protection.
The tribe will also be able to enter tribal domestic violence criminal convictions into NCIC. This will provide all law enforcement agencies and licensed firearms dealers, regardless of location, the ability to halt a transfer of a firearm to an individual prohibited from possessing firearms, including those prohibited from possessing firearms because of a tribal order of protection. The effect is that prohibited firearm possessors may face prosecution if found in possession of weapons. Ultimately, this could result in the prevention of escalating incidents of crime and violence.
Finally, cases prosecuted under special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction may result in a warrant issued for individuals who flee the reservation boundaries to avoid prosecution in tribal court. TAP will assist in the extradition of these individuals to tribal court to face justice for acts committed on the reservation.
Background on the TAP User Feedback Phase
TAP supports tribes in analyzing their needs for national crime information and helps 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 also provides 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. The Department of Justice’s commitment to finding permanent and individual solutions to the long-standing problems with inconsistent access for tribes to federal criminal databases remains ongoing and is a top priority for many department components.
“We have worked closely with our tribal partners to develop solutions that will broadly benefit tribal communities,” said Director Tracy Toulou of the Justice Department’s Office of Tribal Justice. “TAP is the result of innovative thinking by people actively listening to tribal concerns and finding ways to deliver technology that ensures public safety through the exchange of critical information.”
The User Feedback Phase grants access to national crime information databases and technical support to the following tribes: the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians of North Carolina, the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community in Michigan, the Pascua Yaqui Tribe of Arizona, the Suquamish Indian Tribe of the Port Madison Reservation in Washington, the Gila River Indian Community of the Gila River Reservation in Arizona, the Tulalip Tribes of Washington, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Oregon and the White Mountain Apache Tribe of the Fort Apache Reservation in Arizona.
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.