Eleven Native American tribes, including the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, are getting access to national crime information databases already used by local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.
“The RSIC will benefit enormously from the program,” said Edward Reina, RSIC Tribal Administrator. “Indian Country law enforcement has struggled for decades, to gain access to and have the ability to enter criminal justice information into a national data base, a practice enjoyed by every non-Tribal law enforcement agency in the United States.”
The Tribal Access Program for National Crime Information or TAP, will provided a state- of-the-art biometric/biographic computer workstation to the RSIC that will allow tribal police to process finger and palm prints, take mugshots and submit records to national databases.
Furthermore, the RSIC will also be able to access the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Service systems for criminal and civil purposes.
In addition, TAP will provide specialized training and assistance to RSIC staff.
“Not only is TAPS helpful from law enforcements ability to enter criminally linked information, but also our human services, housing, education, and human resources will be able to make criminal history inquiries,” Reina said.
Throughout Indian Country, criminal background checks for potential employees, volunteers as well as people of interest takes weeks and often months to receive.
With TAP, reports will take minutes or a few hours to retrieve. This will expedite the processing of emergency foster care placements, volunteers that work with children, applicants for housing, and the like.
Each of these capabilities enhances protection of children and families, and adds an important resource for law enforcement.
“Central to this program is our ability to share information between law enforcement agencies throughout Indian Country,” Reina said. “This is particularly critical in this era when information sharing has neglected the importance of Indian Country’s criminal intelligence information.”
TAP is a shortcut as it allows tribes to bypass state and local agencies and go directly into federal databases according to Alfred Urbina, the attorney general for the Pascua Yaqui Nation.
The Pascua Yaqui Nation was one of the first tribes to participate in the program.
“There has always been a gap on information sharing with Indian Country law enforcement and other agencies,” said Edward Reina, who is also a retired police chief. “This (gap) was highlighted in our application to the DOJ as we have the unique geographic location of the RSIC, which is the urban (Reno) and rural (Hungry Valley) settings.”
According to Reina, because the RSIC has two land bases, law enforcement requires a unique approach to sharing information.
Furthermore, Reina said that the RSIC’s application for TAP also emphasized our community’s interaction with the larger metropolitan area because of the Colony’s business enterprises.
“Only eleven agencies were selected to participate in the program,” Reina said, “so we are fortunate to be chosen.” TAP enhances tribal efforts to register sex offenders pursuant to the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA); to have orders of protection enforced off-reservation; to protect children; to keep firearms away from persons who are disqualified from receiving them; to improve the safety of public housing, and to allow tribes to enter their arrests and convictions into national databases.
TAP supports tribes in analyzing their needs for national crime information and includes appropriate solutions. TAP, which is managed by the DOJ Chief Information Officer, provides specialized training and assistance for participating tribes, including computer-based training and on-site instruction, as well as a 24/7 help desk.
“Since its launch in 2015, this project has not only helped law enforcement locate suspects, rescue victims and extradite captured fugitives, but it’s also made it easier for civil courts to enter and enforce orders of protection for domestic violence victims,” said Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates. “I’m proud that our Justice Department is continuing to act as a responsible partner with tribal governments in this landmark effort, which strengthens both sovereignty and safety for American Indian people.”
This access is vital as Native American women face the highest rates of violence and sexual assault in the United States, but orders of protection, restraining orders courts can issue to protect victims of domestic abuse or harassment, are unenforceable. “If law enforcement officials on and off the reservation can’t confirm restraining orders exist in other jurisdictions, legally, nothing can be done,” said Alfred Urbina, the attorney general for the Pascua Yaqui Tribe of Arizona, one of the first tribes to participate in the program.
In the fall of 2015, the department selected a dozen tribes to participate in the initial user feedback phase of TAP. This partnership focused on testing the department’s technology solution and training support and it also enabled tribes to identify and share best practices regarding the use of national crime information databases to strengthen public safety.
Phase two of TAP will grant access to national crime information databases and technical support to the RSIC as well as the following tribes: Metlakatla Indian Community, Annette Island Reserve, Alaska; Navajo Nation in Arizona, New Mexico & Utah; Pueblo of Laguna of New Mexico; Yurok Tribe of California; the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe of North & South Dakota; the Tohono O’odham Nation of Arizona; Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate of the Lake Traverse Reservation in South Dakota; Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in Montana; the Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians in Wisconsin; and the Makah Indian Tribe of Washington state.
The Office of Justice Programs’ Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering and Tracking (SMART), and Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) funded the second phase of tap as each provided $1 million in prior fiscal year funding towards the expansion, which will be used for the 11 kiosks. The Department of Justice Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) provided technical assistance.
“TAP enhances protection of our children and families, and adds an important resource for law enforcement,” Reina said. “As the RSIC is one of the first Indian country law enforcement agencies to begin an era of information sharing with our partners outside of Indian Country, this program recognizes that Indian Country law enforcement is integral to the protection of, our community, the State of Nevada and the United States. ”
For more information on TAP, visit www.justice.gov/tribal/tribal-access-program-tap
For more information about the DOJ, tribal justice and public safety issues, visit: www.justice.gov/tribal
For more information about the Department of the Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs, visit https://www.indianaffairs.gov/
Editor’s Note: Information for this story was provided by the United States Department of Justice Public Affairs.