Government Affairs

gaPublic safety and the effective administration of justice rely upon making complete and accurate justice information available to decision-makers who enact, enforce and adjudicate our laws and protect the public.

Effectively sharing information across state, local, tribal and Federal organizations occurs within a complex system of policy, legislative, regulatory and other activities—particularly at the national level.

Information and intelligence must be available in a manner that is responsible, seamless and secure as these organizations work to prevent, investigate and prosecute criminal and terrorist activity, and protect the public. Using justice information for civil purposes (such as screening for employment, licensing and volunteer purposes) and for positions of trust requires accuracy, privacy and appropriate identification of individuals.

SEARCH operates a robust program of advocacy, education and outreach to support state, local, tribal and Federal justice, public safety and homeland security information sharing. As the premier resource on justice information sharing, SEARCH Members (governor appointees from the states and territories) represent the collective voice of the states and territories on these critical issues, and voice their priorities to Congress, the administration, regulatory agencies and others.

Through our Government Affairs program, we work with SEARCH Members, congressional representatives, governmental bodies and boards, partner associations and the general public to—

  • Provide timely information and analysis about pending Federal legislation and activity, including appropriations, that affects justice, public safety and homeland security
  • Communicate with Federal officials on Capitol Hill and in the Administration about how Federal policy impacts the delivery of services to the field (particularly in local, tribal and state agencies)
  • Effectively present the consensus voice of the States on justice information sharing issues to key decision-makers and stakeholders

We meet with Federal agency and Congressional staff and members; develop position, policy and briefing documents and white papers; and work with our Membership to craft resolutions and support liaison activities with their governor’s offices.

Key policy issues Our focus
Justice Information Sharing
  • The value of justice information in making decisions, whether in day-to-day operations or during critical incidents and natural disasters.
  • How local and state justice agencies—law enforcement, prosecutors, courts, corrections—manage and exchange information with one another.
  • How proposed legislation may impact local, state and national justice information systems.
  • The value of a collective, cooperative effort of the States and Federal government to share and exchange criminal history records nationally.
Rap Sheets & Background Checks
  • What constitutes the official criminal history record (“rap sheet”) and how it’s created.
  • How States conduct and govern criminal history background checks.
  • How these records are used to make critical criminal and noncriminal justice decisions that apply to tens of millions of individuals each year:
    • bail, sentencing, release from corrections, and more
    • screening for firearms purchases
    • background checks for job applicants, volunteers and licensees—especially when it involves access to vulnerable populations or sensitive locations and data.
  • A workable solution for efficient, affordable, and effective background checks.
Privacy, Security & Accuracy
  • The importance of using fingerprints and other biological identifiers to establish positive ID and ensure record accuracy.
  • The practices that justice agencies individually and collectively use to protect the privacy and civil liberties of individuals whose records are shared electronically.
Emergency Communications
  • Large disasters and incidents expose how well, or not so well, our communications systems support emergency first responders. Transmitting critical information in life-threatening and emergency situations requires a solid investment in both 9-1-1/dispatch center and field communications (such as radio, mobile, wireless broadband).
High-Tech Crime & Online Child Exploitation
  • Effective, high-tech approaches that law enforcement investigators can use to effectively combat technology- and web-based criminal activity.
  • Advanced techniques that support investigations and successful prosecutions of online child exploitation.

Additional Resources

  • Download a one-page flyer that outlines the key policy issues we offer expertise on
  • Read our white paper on Improving NICS for Firearms Purchases
  • Read this blog post on Capitol Hill briefings we held to educate on criminal history records and their use for noncriminal justice and civil purposes
  • New! SEARCH Policy Statements, which articulate our core principles as developed and approved by the SEARCH Membership Group, July 29, 2014