DOJ to expand data-sharing with tribal governments

The Justice Department looks to add more Native American tribal governments, including law enforcement and civil programs, to its efforts to open up access to its national crime database resources.

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By the end of October, the Justice Department wants to extend its Tribal Access Program to over two dozen more Native American tribal governments across the country.

The three-year-old TAP, said the agency in a statement on Aug. 2, gives federally recognized tribes technology to interact with the department’s national crime information databases -- the National Criminal Information Center (NCIC), the Interstate Identification Index (III), and the International Justice and Public Safety Network (Nlets) -- for criminal and civil purposes.

The systems can be used by a range of tribal agencies, including law enforcement and civil agencies, such as public housing, child support and social services, DOJ officials said.

Since the tribal users can push local information into DOJ systems, they also broaden its data. Officials said the tribes' contributions so far have directly provided data that has helped register almost 600 sex offenders, facilitated 550 sex offender check-ins, and blocked 300 instances of unlawful firearm purchases. The contributed data also has allowed for more than 4,200 fingerprint-based record checks for hiring, tribal housing and child care workers and volunteers.

The system is managed by the Justice Department CIO’s office, but the agency said the program is a collaboration among its Office of Tribal Justice; Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering and Tracking; and Office of Community Oriented Policing Services. In 2019, DOJ's Office for Victims of Crime, which sets funding aside to help victims, will also be added.

The department wants to add 25 more tribal governments to the system, split between two programs, for fiscal 2019.

The first TAP version, called TAP Light, provides software that gives full access to the NCIC, III and Nlets databases for both criminal and civil purposes. It does not provide fingerprint capabilities.TAP-Full provides the basic TAP Light capabilities, along with a stand-alone kiosk that also provides fingerprint-based transactions through the FBI’s Next Generation Identification database for criminal and civil applications.

By September 2018, the department said both versions of TAP will be deployed to 47 tribes and will support over 180 tribal criminal justice and civil agencies.

Justice officials warned, however, that local connectivity for the on-site systems can be an issue, especially in more-rural locations.

The Justice Department said that, with its current funding levels, it can choose 10 TAP Light users and 15 TAP Full users for fiscal 2019.

The agency said in its Aug. 2 statement that it is taking applications for the systems until Oct. 1 and will announce the successful applications by Oct. 15. It plans to deploy the systems by Sept. 30, 2019.

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