Department of Justice and Department of Interior Team Up for Major Expansion of Tribal Access to National Crime Information Databases

The Department of Justice and the Department of the Interior announced a dramatic expansion of the federal government’s key program that provides tribes with access to national crime information databases, the Justice Department’s Tribal Access Program for National Crime Information (TAP). 

By the end of 2019, the Justice Department will expand the number of TAP participating tribes by more than 50 percent—from 47 tribes to 72.  The Department of the Interior (DOI) will fund the instillation of TAP Kiosks at three locations where the BIA-Office of Indian Services (BIA-OIS) deliver direct service social services by the end of 2019 and DOI aims to expand TAP access at all 28 BIA-Office of Justice Services (BIA-OJS) operated law enforcement agencies and detention service centers.  These BIA locations will provide some degree of access to TAP for services delivered to more than 50 tribal communities that currently do not have any direct access. 

“For far too long, a lack of access to federal criminal databases has hurt tribal law enforcement—preventing them from doing their jobs and keeping their communities safe,” said Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.  “With the Tribal Access Program, participating tribes will be able to protect victims of domestic violence, register sex offenders, keep guns out of dangerous hands, and help locate missing people.  This milestone demonstrates our deep commitment to strengthening public safety in Indian country.”

“I am proud to authorize the funding for the expansion of the Tribal Access Program to the Bureau of Indian Affairs to make the future of justice in Indian Country stronger,” said Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Tara Sweeney at the 75th National Congress of American Indians Convention today. “The Bureau of Indian Affairs is proud to grant greater access to these important databases at more locations throughout Indian Country. Performing background checks is a critical step in protecting our precious Native children in foster care, and tribal communities served by the BIA will benefit from access to this extensive public safety tool.”

“Access to information is vital to effective law enforcement,” said Trent Shores, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma and the Chairman of the Attorney General’s Advisory Subcommittee on Native American Issues.  “The Tribal Access Program will enhance and improve the ability of tribal law enforcement officers to serve their communities. The Native American Issues Subcommittee is proud to support the continued expansion of this tool throughout Indian Country.

The Native American Issues Subcommittee (NAIS) is comprised of United States Attorneys with Indian Country in their federal districts. They advise the Attorney General regarding the development and implementation of policies pertaining to justice in Indian Country. The NAIS identified ‘increased law enforcement resources’ as one of four priority areas to improve justice services in Indian Country. Support for and increased dissemination of the TAP was unanimously supported by the US Attorneys at a recent NAIS meeting in Indian Country in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

“We at the BIA-OJS look forward to having direct access to these vital resources,” said Deputy BIA Director for Office of Justice Services Charles Addington. “We have waited years for the opportunity to streamline how we access these critical databases and the funding authorized by AS-IA Sweeney will allow  our law enforcement officers the ability to receive the information they need to do their jobs effectively and keep them safe.”

TAP, offered in two versions, TAP-FULL and TAP-LIGHT, allows tribes to more effectively serve and protect their communities by fostering the exchange of critical data through several national databases through the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Systems (CJIS) network, including the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), Next Generation Identification (NGI), National Data Exchange (N-DEx), National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), Law Enforcement Enterprise Portal (LEEP) as well as other national systems such as the International Justice and Public Safety Network (Nlets).   TAP enhances tribal efforts to register sex offenders pursuant to the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA); have orders of protection enforced nationwide; protect children; keep firearms away from persons who are disqualified from receiving them; improve the safety of public housing, and allow tribes to enter their arrests and convictions into national databases.

TAP-FULL consists of a kiosk workstation that provide access to national systems and is capable of processing finger and palm prints, as well as taking mugshots and submitting records to national databases. TAP-LIGHT is software for criminal agencies that include police departments, prosecutors, criminal courts, jails, and probation departments. Both versions provide federally recognized tribes the ability to access and exchange data with national crime information databases for both civil and criminal purpose.  TAP is currently available to 47 tribes nationwide with over 220 tribal criminal justice and civil agencies participating.

For more information on TAP, including a list and map of present TAP-FULL and TAP-LIGHT tribes, visit www.justice.gov/tribal/tribal-access-program-tap

For more information about the Justice Department’s work on tribal justice and public safety issues, visit:  www.justice.gov/tribal

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Author: October 22, 2018