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Federally recognized Tribal governments can now apply to access and exchange data with national crime databases via the Tribal Access Program (TAP) from the Department of Justice.

 

The goal of the program, according to an announcement from the DOJ, is to support Tribal Nations to serve and protect their citizens through the exchange of critical public safety data, including:

  • Missing person reports
  • Domestic violence orders of protections
  • Registered convicted sex offenders
  • Criminal records 

Participating tribes can also utilize TAP for non-criminal justice purposes, such as screening employees or volunteers who work with children.

TAP launched in 2015 and currently has 123 tribal nations and more than 400 tribal government entities participating.

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Reservations nationwide experience violent crime at a rate 2.5 times higher than the general population, according to data from the National Congress of American Indians. The high rate of violence is the result of decades of confusion over jurisdiction, lack of collaboration between federal, state, and tribal agencies, and insufficient federal funding.

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said expanding Tribal access to national crime databases is critical to enhancing public safety on Tribal lands. 

“To improve public safety in Indian country, we must break down the barriers to criminal justice information that Tribal communities have faced for years,” Garland said in a statement.

Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa (Meskwaki Nation) has participated in TAP since 2018. Meskwaki Tribal Court administrator Joy Mauskemo said that the program has allowed the Tribal Nation to improve public safety without sacrificing sovereignty over its people. 

“Our tribal court is now entering its own protection orders and arrest warrants instead of relying on the county for this,” Mauskemo said in a statement. “Housing is running criminal backgrounds on members applying for homes to protect tribal neighborhoods. Meskwaki police are able to register sex offenders, as well as run background checks on new officers. Human resources is now getting criminal histories back in a matter of minutes.”

Eligible tribes must have or agree to use TAP for at least one of the following:

  • A Tribal sex offender registry authorized by the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act,
  • A Tribal law enforcement agency that has arrest powers,
  • A Tribal court that issues orders of protection, or
  • A Tribal government agency that screens individuals for foster care placement or that investigates allegations of child abuse/neglect.

Accepted tribes will be provided training as well as a web-based application and biometric/biographic kiosk workstations to process fingerprints, take mugshots, and submit information to the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services systems.  

For Tribes considering applying, the DOJ is offering informational webinars throughout July and August.

Applications for the TAP program are open until Sept. 1. Tribes selected to participate will be notified later in September. 

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