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Program helps tribe expand access to criminal databases
Navajo Nation joined DOJ program on Tuesday
FARMINGTON — To increase public safety on the Navajo Nation, the tribe has joined a federal program to increase direct access to national crime information systems.
The move will also help departments and offices under the tribe's divisions of public safety and social services and judicial branch increase their abilities to conduct background checks.
The tribe joined the Tribal Access Program under the U.S. Department of Justice on Tuesday, according to a press release from the Navajo Nation Washington Office.
The Justice Department launched the program in August 2015, and it allows tribes access to national crime information systems for civil and criminal purposes, according to the department's website.
As part of the program, the tribe received two kiosk work stations that will be situated in the Navajo Nation Division of Social Services in Window Rock, Ariz., and in the Navajo Nation Department of Corrections in Chinle, Ariz.
Orlando Bowman, program supervisor with the police department in Window Rock, said personnel from the police departments, criminal investigations, corrections, social services, judicial branch, prosecutor's office and background investigations will receive access to the national databases.
Employees from these entities will receive access after undergo specific vetting and security requirements, Bowman said.
There are no immediate plans to acquire additional kiosks or increase access to employees beyond those approved, he said.
He added the tribe "anticipates positive coordination" with the Justice Department in the future.
When asked if acquiring access to the national databases was part of the tribe's effort to develop an Amber Alert system, Bowman said the basis was to have prosecutors and criminal courts gain access and to increase access for public safety personnel.
But with an Amber Alert system, the child's name and other critical data can be submitted to the National Crime Information Center system directly from the Navajo Nation, he said.
Gertrude Lee, chief prosecutor for the tribe, was among those who applauded the tribe's inclusion in the program.
"Direct access to criminal justice information databases is a very useful tool for the prosecutor as we gather information that helps use tailor conditions of release or conditions of probation for those coming into the criminal justice system," Lee said in the release.
Last month, the Justice Department announced it was adding 15 tribes to the Tribal Access Program, including the Mescalero Apache Tribe, the Pueblo of Acoma and the Zuni Tribe.
Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.