SEARCH Program Focuses on Tribal Violence Prevention

SEARCH's work with Michigan State Police and state Tribes produces agreement to support Walsh Act implementation
A cooperative effort between Michigan State Police and some of Michigan's Indian Tribes, facilitated by SEARCH, resulted in a memorandum of agreement (MOA) that allows the Tribes to comply with certain Adam Walsh Act requirements.

The requirements are detailed in the act's Title I, The Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, or SORNA for short.

SORNA is designed to establish "minimum national standards" for sex offender monitoring with requirements spelled out for sex offender registration and notification; expectations for technical capabilities; processes and deadlines for notifying other jurisdictions where offenders move, attend school or work; and other mandated conditions.

SORNA gives Indian Tribes the option of handling compliance requirements completely or partnering with state justice entities to comply.

States, Tribes and territorial justice jurisdictions that fail to meet SORNA's compliance deadlines are subject to mandatory reductions in Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Funding. SORNA's first deadline is July 27, 2009.

The U.S. Attorney General has issued a blanket one-year SORNA compliance deadline extension. Built into the act are one- and two-year extensions based on evidence that a jurisdiction is making good-faith efforts to comply.

SEARCH's work with Michigan State Police and Tribal representatives consisted of a series of conference calls beginning in October 2008. Thirteen conference calls were held before a final version of the MOA was completed in April 2009.

During the calls, participants discussed the most recent draft of the agreement, suggesting revisions and requesting changes. SEARCH General Counsel Robert Belair would incorporate the changes into a new draft of the agreement, which would then be circulated for review and discussed during the next teleconference.

Among the Michigan Indian Tribes participating in the cooperative effort were the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, Saginaw Chippewa, Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, Grand Traverse Bay Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, and the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians.

Michigan State Police reported in June 2009 that it had received signed copies of the MOA from the Grand Traverse Bay Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians and from the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians.

State police are awaiting the arrival of a signed copy of the MOA from a third Tribe that reportedly approved the agreement.

SEARCH Law and Policy Director Owen Greenspan praised the dedication of Michigan state law enforcement and Tribal representatives for their dedication to the cooperative effort. He said, "This agreement could not have been accomplished without the hard work of Michigan State Police and Tribes, who devoted considerable time and energy toward a workable agreement that would provide the best protection for the people of Michigan."

Technical assistance is provided through SEARCH to improve information sharing between Indian Country, state criminal history record repositories and various national databases.

For information or to apply for technical assistance under the Tribal Violence Prevention Technology Assistance Program, please contact Owen Greenspan at

The program, funded by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), U.S. Department of Justice, will help Tribal jurisdictions respond to the Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act of 2005, the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006, and other federal criminal justice information-sharing initiatives.

These initiatives create opportunities and responsibilities for Tribal jurisdictions regarding-
  • entry and retrieval of Tribal information from federal criminal databases;
  • Tribal sex offender registries and connection to a national sex offender website;
  • Tribal protection order registries;
  • non-duplication of statutory functions; and
  • cooperation between jurisdictions.

The program will assist Tribal jurisdictions and state repositories in identifying and resolving both policy and technical issues that impede the sharing of justice information between jurisdictions.

Jurisdiction and Law Enforcement in Indian Country, National Conference of State Legislatures  

Sharing Criminal Record Information Among New Mexico Tribes and State

U.S. Department of Justice Tribal Justice and Safety in Indian Country site