Program gives Peninsula tribes access to national crime databases

PORT ANGELES — The U.S. Justice Department has announced the expansion of a program that provides tribes — including the Lower Elwha Klallam and Quinault tribes — with access to national crime information databases.

The expanded access to the Justice Department’s Tribal Access Program (TAP) for National Crime Information includes the Chehalis, Swinomish, Lower Elwha Klallam, Quinault and Port Gamble S’Klallam tribes. The Makah Tribe, as well as the Tulalip, Suquamish and Lummi, were already involved in the program.

“With the addition of five more, we will have a total of nine tribes in Western Washington participating in the Tribal Access Program — ensuring better data sharing across law enforcement and thus more public safety in the communities we serve,” said U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes in a news release. “The TAP program has already resulted in some significant successes.”

Fingerprints

Diane Cabrera, Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe prosecuting attorney, said this allows the tribe to run fingerprints to send to the FBI, to do background checks and to upload protection orders directly to national systems.

“By having this access I think it makes us a full-fledged law enforcement agency,” she said. “We’re actually able to provide what our tribal community needs, which is a full compliment of policing services and other sorts of civil services.”

She said the tribe will be able to use the system for civil purposes too, such as screening applicants who want to live in tribal public housing.

She said that by participating in the program, the tribe aims to bridge gaps in policing functions including strengthening investigative abilities, improving efficiencies in the tribe’s sex offender registration process and ensuring the safety of first responders.

The program also makes tribal protection orders enforceable across the United States.

“It really benefits the tribes that are out here,” she said. “It’s useful for everyone.”

Tribal Chairwoman Frances Charles said the tribe is pleased that the Department of Justice selected it as a participant.

“It is a testament to the increased capacity of the Tribe’s law enforcement and judicial systems and will enhance our ability to protect the public safety of not only the tribal community but also the broader community of Port Angeles and the North Olympic Peninsula, with which we partner on a broad range of public safety activities,” she said in a statement.

The Suquamish Tribal Police were among the first 10 tribes to join the system in 2015 and were able to use the system to locate and rescue an elderly tribal member who had been taken from his home.

TAP provides federally recognized tribes the ability to access and exchange data with national crime information databases for both civil and criminal purposes.

TAP — offered in two versions, TAP-FULL and TAP-LIGHT — allows tribes to more effectively serve their communities by fostering the exchange of critical data through several national databases via the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Systems network, including the National Crime Information Center, Next Generation Identification, National Data Exchange, National Instant Criminal Background Check System, Law Enforcement Enterprise Portal as well as other national systems such as the International Justice and Public Safety Network, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

TAP also 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 so they can be recognized by law enforcement across the country, the U.S. Attorney’s Office added.

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].

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