SACRAMENTO—Legislation granting tribal law enforcement agencies and tribal courts access to a national data network providing local and state law enforcement agencies with information used to investigate crimes and a message system maintained by the Federal Bureau of
Investigation, Department of Motor Vehicles and other agencies was signed today by Gov. Gavin Newsom. Assemblymember James C. Ramos (D-San Bernardino) introduced the measure – AB 44.
Ramos said, “The signing of AB 44 is critical to assisting tribes keep their communities safe and investigate crimes, especially crimes involving missing and murdered Native Americans. It will also help protect neighboring communities and create stronger communication and partnerships between the tribes and other law enforcement agencies.”
The Ramos bill grants tribal governments and tribal courts access to CLETS – the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System – that contains data bases with information about an individual’s criminal history and criminal record. Through CLETS, tribal governments and tribal courts also gain access to the International Justice and Public Safety Network, the Criminal Justice Information Services and the National Crime Information Center and Department of Motor Vehicles records such as driver’s license and vehicle registration information.
Ramos stated that California has the fifth largest caseload of missing and murdered Indigenous women and people. He added that nearly one-half of all Indigenous women have been sexually assaulted, beaten or stalked by an intimate partner. “Without CLETS access, tribal courts and tribal law enforcement cannot enter domestic violence protective orders or share and update criminal and missing record information. Lack of CLETS access puts tribal communities at a disadvantage and allows criminal perpetrators to escape justice,” Ramos concluded.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta commented, “I am proud to have supported AB 44. This bill, like AB 3099 and AB 1314 which were also authored by Assemblymember Ramos, aims to correct past injustices and improve protections for tribal communities and citizens. AB 44 will allow for greater collaboration between tribal police and tribal courts to access the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System. These efforts will improve public safety – on and off tribal lands. When we reduce barriers and work together, we’re better able to build back trust and foster relationships that improve public safety on tribal lands and in California.”
Yurok Tribal Chairman Joe James stated, “By granting both tribal police and tribal courts access to CLETS, AB 44 ensures that Tribes are empowered to secure our own public safety. Our tribal courts and tribal police will be better able to protect our people, respond to victims of crime, monitor issues on tribal lands, and address the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous People.” James added, “AB 44 will allow us to better partner with our county and state counterparts. Ultimately, AB 44 makes the whole state, and all its people safer. On behalf of the Yurok Tribe, I would like to thank both Governor Newsom and Assemblymember Ramos for their continued effort to end the MMIP crisis.” The Yurok Tribe has been at the forefront of confronting the crisis and called for a summit of California Tribes and others to address the issue. In December 2021, the tribe declared an MMIP emergency in response to a spike in those cases in Northern California and the disappearance of tribal member Emmilee Risling who was last on the Yurok Reservation in October 2021.
Current entities with CLETS access include sheriffs, city police departments, district attorneys, courts, probation departments, the California Highway Patrol, the Department of Justice, the Department of Insurance, the Employment Development Department, university, college, and school district police departments, fire department arson investigation units and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Tribal governments and courts will be granted CLETS access by the Attorney General under AB 44. The governing body of a tribe will need to adopt a law or resolution to declare the tribe will comply with procedural laws, inspections, audits and other measures with CLETS operating policies. The Department of General Services will determine setup and access charges to the tribes for CLETS access.
AB 44 is sponsored by the Yurok Tribe and California Indian Legal Services. A partial list of supporters includes the Augustine Band of Cahuilla Indians, Cahuilla Band of Indians, California Consortium for Urban Indian Health, Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake, Hoopa Valley Tribe, Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians, Resighini Rancheria Tribal Council, California Partnership to End Domestic Violence, California Tribal Police Chiefs Association, Northern California Tribal Chairmen’s Association, California Tribal Families Coalition and Friendship House Association of American Indians.
Assemblymember James C. Ramos proudly represents the 45th Assembly district which includes the Cities of Fontana, Highland, Mentone, Redlands, Rialto and San Bernardino. He is the first and only California Native American serving in the state’s legislature. Ramos chairs the Assembly Committees on Rules.