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Frequently Asked Questions
The DPS only oversees the Division of Alaska State Troopers, the Division of Alaska Wildlife Troopers, and the Division of Fire and Life Safety (State Fire Marshals). The Alaska Police Standards Council (APSC), which is positioned under DPS, but governed by its own board, is responsible for certifying all law enforcement officers in Alaska and setting minimum hiring and training standards, including those outlined in statute and regulation. APSC does not oversee departments; however, each department is expected to follow and uphold all applicable state statutes.
 
DPS HIRING AND RACIAL DIVERSITY
 
  • Written Law Enforcement Selection Tool to measure areas related to successful performance as an Alaska State Trooper
  • Application on Workplace Alaska to determine minimum qualifications
  • Initial physical fitness test
  • Lengthy background application through Guardian portal
During the background investigation, an Applicant often is asked to supplement their application with additional information in areas where their responses were insufficient.  They also take part in a one-on-one interview with the Background investigator to kick off the background investigation effort. The following also occurs:
  • Review of references, education, employment, criminal history and prior personal and professional conduct by seasoned DPS Background Investigator
  • Command file review to determine suitability to move forward in selection process
  • Final physical fitness test
  • Oral board interview with three commissioned Troopers
  • Psychological written and interview by contracted psychological service
  • Polygraph by DPS examiner to screen for undetected crimes or falsified application
  • Medical screening
  • Drug screening
  • Final selection by Division Director
  • Attendance at DPS Training Academy
Alaska Department of Public Safety typically hires 1-3% of Trooper applicants.
 
*Self-identification of Race/Ethnicity (at time of hire)
 
ALASKA NATIVE / AMERICAN INDIAN 4.8% HISPANIC 3.4%
ASIAN 1.1% WHITE 87.3%
BLACK 3.1% OTHER 0.3%
 
 
The above table demonstrates a breakdown of the Department of Public Safety’s Trooper job series (ranks of Recruit – Major) by race/ethnicity as of 5/31/2020. The data is from the State Payroll system and reflects employees’ self-identification of race/ethnicity at time of hire.  The percentages are based on a total of 355 employees.
 
While no sector of industry or government has a demographic distribution that perfectly mirrors that of the general public they serve, it’s reasonable to strive for such diversity. Diversity is healthy for any organization, not only because it earns public confidence but also because it helps us solve problems.  Diverse groups have access to broader perspectives and opinions that in turn contribute to efficiency, innovation and better problem-solving in almost every situation.
 
While we’re confident that our hiring process is fair, we can’t hire people who do not apply, and it is in this area where the deficit lies. Our diversification efforts involve a number of strategies to increase applications from diverse groups.
 
The customer-service focus we’ve fostered in the last few years has resulted in huge gains in our overall recruiting success and although no significant boost in diversity has yet been seen, we hope it will be realized going forward.  Putting a human face on our organization has helped our efforts and that may bear fruit when recruiting diverse applicants as well.
 
In addition to being more accessible and customer-service focused, our advertising regularly displays uniformed Troopers from underrepresented groups. We advertise in publications with readerships that are dominated by diverse populations.  We recruit heavily among military members, which represent one of the most diverse workforces in the nation. We attend job fairs where diverse groups are represented and have given specific guidance to employment counselors of minority groups on how to prepare their clients to succeed in this career. We regularly attend college and career fairs in rural Alaska and visit rural high schools. The DPS makes an extra effort to reach out to applicants from underrepresented groups and invest time in them to prepare that individual for the application process.
 
Building trust, collaboration, and partnerships in addition to providing transparency is essential for the DPS to meet its mission, so it is ongoing and a part of what we do during our regular course of business. This is critical for all law enforcement agencies, but DPS relies perhaps even more heavily on its community relationships than other departments due to our model of call response. Some examples include:  
 
  • Over the past 18 months, APSC has conducted outreach to all rural Alaskan communities trying to identify public safety needs, most of these communities are primarily Alaska Native.
  • Annually, DPS actively participates with AFN. Representatives attend and participate in informational and listening sessions when invited. 
  • The Crime lab participates in yearly community summer camps organized by FOAST. In the past these have been run in predominantly native Alaska communities – Bethel and Mountain Village as well as Fairbanks and Kodiak. The goal is to inspire and plant seeds for youth to become interested in forensics.
  • Troopers often seek out local elders, community groups, and native councils when they first move to a community. Troopers rely heavily on these groups to help teach them the local culture and customs for a particular region. This is critical to their success in communities.
  • Prior to COVID-19, DPS consistently hosted citizen academies in efforts to build relationships with communities.
  • Troopers attend job fairs and career events that target diverse groups of applicants and staff the DPS booth with diverse troopers, when possible.While we’re confident that our hiring process is fair, we can’t hire people who do not apply, and it is in this area where the deficit lies. Our diversification efforts involve a number of strategies to increase applications from diverse groups.
     
One of the most profound barriers is a lack of positive interactions with the public.  Public safety is a tricky business – people usually call us when they are having a really bad day; therefore, most police contacts are negative contacts.  In order to create a relationship with a potential Trooper that results in a job application, we must have significant contact with the applicant in a positive way and that isn’t happening often enough.  When it does occur, it’s most often when someone spends time with a Trooper off-duty.  These positive contacts are extremely resource-intensive to create during the duty day. Funds to support programs that would help in this way are hard to find. 
 
In hopes of obtaining more diversity in our ranks, going forward the DPS plans to continue to recruit heavily amongst diverse groups as well as the military branches.  We’ll continue investing time in applicants from underrepresented groups and we’ll continue advertising through organizations with diverse reader/viewership.  As other opportunities to interact with diverse groups present themselves, we’ll engage as fully as our resources allow.  Additionally, the department will stand up an internal Diversity in Recruitment and Retention workgroup tasked with providing recommendations on increasing the diversity of state trooper applicant pools, identifying barriers to application and/or retention, and recommending strategies for a diverse workforce within DPS.  
 
What we ask the public in return is to give us a chance.  Give us a call if law enforcement work is something you’d consider.  We’re looking for people who are honest, hardworking, and have a heart for public service.  You don’t need to know how to do this kind of work because we can teach you that.  What we can’t teach is how to be kind.  How to be honest.  How to work hard and how to serve people in our state when they’re having a rough day.  We have to hire those qualities, and if that’s you, we’d love to talk to you about becoming an Alaska State Trooper.
 
People can learn more about becoming a trooper and the process at www.alaskastatetrooper.com.
 
ACADMEY AND ADVANCED TRAINING
 
There are two police academies in the state: the Alaska Law Enforcement Training Academy (ALET) run by DPS in Sitka and the Anchorage Police Department Academy that is held in Anchorage. There used to be a third run by the University of Alaska Fairbanks in Fairbanks, but it is no longer operating due to budget cuts.
 
The ALET (Alaska Law Enforcement Training) program is 16 weeks long and happens twice per year; ALET recruits receive over 1,000 hours of training.
 
The Academy trains all the new hire Alaska State Troopers, Alaska Wildlife Troopers, Deputy Fire Marshals and Court Services Officers. Less than half of any given class is made up of Troopers.  The DPS Academy also trains Village Public Safety Officers (VPSOs) and municipal officers from all over the state; 13 municipal agencies were represented in ALET 20-01. All students are treated the same and must meet the same standard. This means that while DPS has no direct control over municipal departments, we do have a heavy influence as most of their officers are trained at the DPS Training Academy (except APD).
 
Many local law enforcement departments in Alaska are not willing to send their recruits anywhere else because they have found that our training provides them with the professional law enforcement officers their community needs. 
 
Both remaining academies must adhere to all APSC regulations and state statute that lay out training requirements and standards. A list of those topics can be found in 13 AAC 85.050. Both academies far exceed the minimum standards required by law and recruits are required to attend the full academy in order to maintain employment. The DPS Training Academy includes a number of courses related to de-escalation, cultural awareness, bias, use of force, etc. In addition to the classroom courses dedicated to these topics, they are reinforced throughout other courses and scenario-based training during the academy.
 
The Academy puts a heavy emphasis on ethics, professionalism, integrity and respect for the communities we serve. Recruits can be dismissed for unethical or unprofessional behavior, or for failing to meet academic or physical fitness standards. The DPS behavior standards are strictly upheld; recruits from multiple departments in the past have been dismissed regarding behavior-related matters. Recruits also receive classes on community-oriented policing, professional police communication, and cultural diversity.
 
The concepts of empathy and respect for others are strongly reinforced by the professionalism demonstrated by the staff and the way students are expected to treat one another while living together.
 
The DPS puts substantial importance on making objectively reasonable use of force decisions.
Academy staff teaches to the constitutional standard regarding use of force, meaning that any force used must recognize and uphold the citizens’ constitutional rights against unreasonable force. All staff instructors are certified in use of force training so they can all reinforce appropriate use of force decisions, regardless of the class they are teaching.
 
After attending eight hours of use of force classroom training, students go through over 60 live action and video simulated scenarios during their time at the academy to help reinforce appropriate use of force decisions. 
 
While Alaska law enforcement is not perfect, the DPS generally sees very few legitimate use of force complaints despite the majority of Troopers having to respond to most calls for service alone.  This is a testament to the DPS’s emphasis on community-oriented policing and making reasonable force decisions.
 
Alaska State and Wildlife Troopers, along with the Deputy Fire Marshals, go through at least 15 weeks of the Field Training Evaluation Program (FTEP), which is field or “real world” training. It allows for Recruits to build practice and build up their skills that they learned in the Academy under the supervision of a Field Training Officer. It allows our department to also evaluate a Recruit’s ability to actually do the job and ensures that they are prepared, capable, and ready.
 
FTEP also allows the department to provide feedback to the DPS Academy and to recruitment regarding what could be improved upon for future candidate selection and training.
Alaska State and Wildlife Troopers, along with the Deputy Fire Marshals, go through at least 15 weeks of the Field Training Evaluation Program (FTEP), which is field or “real world” training. It allows for Recruits to build practice and build up their skills that they learned in the Academy under the supervision of a Field Training Officer. It allows our department to also evaluate a Recruit’s ability to actually do the job and ensures that they are prepared, capable, and ready.
 
FTEP also allows the department to provide feedback to the DPS Academy and to recruitment regarding what could be improved upon for future candidate selection and training.
 
The process used by DPS has received approval from the courts. We have found that the FTEP increased support for our policies and procedures and it reduces the likelihood of “negligent retention, training and supervision” lawsuits. Because of the field training, our new hires get up-to-speed faster and it sets an agency-wide standard. Also, it gives us the opportunity to remove individuals from our ranks who are not able to sufficiently learn or perform duties appropriately.
Recruits are rated against our high standards, not each other. If a Recruit is struggling, there is opportunity to unplug them temporarily, or even extend their FTEP. Remedial training and mentoring are provided, as needed. If serious performance problems, or integrity, racism, attitude problems arise, a Recruit may be terminated.
 
When a DPS Recruit finishes their FTEP, the Alaska Police Standards Council (APSC) is notified. After the Recruit finishes out a one-year probationary period, they are promoted from Recruit to State Trooper (or Deputy Fire Marshal) and they are issued a basic certificate as a law enforcement officer in the State of Alaska.
 
In November of 2019, the DPS created the Advanced Training Unit (ATU) which allows us to provide our own in-service trainings to employees.  While the unit is in its infancy, the goal is to hold training sessions annually or biannually. Training includes, but is not limited to, Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault investigations refresher course, Trauma for Law Enforcement, Crisis Intervention Training, Mental Health First Aid, Officer Resiliency, Emergency Vehicle Operators Course refresher course, Ethics, Case Laws, Search and Seizure, Field Training Officer instruction, Methods of Instruction, Diversity and Cultural Awareness, 1st Line Supervisor, Firearms, and Defensive Tactics.
USE OF FORCE
Use of Force for law enforcement nationwide is governed by three US Supreme Court cases, primarily Graham v. Connor.  In summary, the force an officer uses must be seen as reasonable based on the facts known to the officer at the time, without the benefit of 20/20 hindsight (e.g. if it is learned after the fact that the gun that was pointed at the officer was fake, that cannot be used against the officer if he/she thought it was real at the time he/she shot the suspect). 
 
The primary things to be considered when evaluating whether force is reasonable are:
1) the severity of the crime
2) the immediacy of the threat to the officer or others
3) whether the suspect is resisting, and
4) whether the subject is attempting to flee. 
 
There are some other minor considerations, such as the number of suspects/officers, etc., but those are the biggest considerations. The lens of “reasonableness” is to be looked at from the perspective of a similarly trained and experienced officer.  Regarding the type of force, if four different officers are put in the same scenario of having to take someone into custody who is actively resisting, one might use just his bare hands, one might use pepper spray, one might use a Taser, and one might use his baton.  None of these options is “right” or “wrong” because each of them could be seen as reasonable.
 
Each agency has its own Use of Force policies, though they are likely similar. DPS has Use of Force policies that outline when it is permissible to use force, up to and including deadly force, as well as policies outlining investigations of Use of Force incidents. DPS utilizes a database to track all Use of Force incidents. Troopers are required to document their incident using this database for any physical interaction aside from standard restraint of putting handcuffs on a person. These reports are reviewed by supervisors or the Office of Professional Standards (DPS’ equivalent to IA), depending on the level.
 
DPS OPM Ch. 107.300 Force: Additional requirement for use of deadly force. The department, recognizing the integrity of human life, authorizes officers to use deadly force against another person only when, in addition to complying with the general policies regarding use of force, the officer has no other reasonable and practical alternative, and reasonably believes deadly force is necessary
                1. to save his or her own life or the life of another;
                2. to prevent serious physical injury [Ref AS 11.81.900] to the officer or another; or
3. because there is probable cause to believe the person has committed a felony using deadly force against another and will immediately endanger life.
 
(A publicly available copy of the DPS’s Operating Procedures Manual can be found on our home page here)
The DPS Training Academy teaches the carotid neck restraint to DPS Recruits. It is designed to compress the carotid artery, restricting blood flow to the brain. Usually just having this applied without pressure is enough to cause a person to stop resisting.  If pressure is applied, it is until the person gives up or pass out, at which point it is immediately stopped and the person is put into handcuffs. The DPS has never taught kneeling on a person’s neck as an appropriate defensive tactic, and certainly not after the person is in handcuffs and complying. Perhaps most importantly, the DPS policy says that the carotid neck restraint is considered to be on the level of deadly force.  In other words, it would only be within policy to use if any lethal force is considered reasonable under the circumstances.
There is a Supreme Court ruling (Tennessee v. Garner) that requires a warning before deadly force is utilized when feasible. The DPS follows this.
Each incident has its own merits. While Troopers aim to de-escalate situations and have the desire for all parties involved to end an encounter alive and uninjured, requiring that a checklist of tasks are done before deadly force is utilized would potentially result in severe injury or death to victims or law enforcement officers.
 
The Alaska Police Standards Council (APSC) is responsible for the certification and de-certification process for law enforcement officers in Alaska. The council is comprised of both civilians and law enforcement officials. APSC would evaluate the incident in relation to de-certification, if the force used was not supported by policy or law. More information about the ASPC board can be found at https://dps.alaska.gov/APSC/Home.
 
COMPLAINTS REGARDING EMPLOYEE CONDUCT
The department accepts, records, and investigates complaints against DPS personnel.  A complaint, per the OPM, is defined as one or more of the following:
 
  • an alleged act, or failure to act, by personnel which is contrary to written rules, regulations, procedures, directives or orders of the department;
  • an alleged act or omission which, if substantiated, would constitute a violation of law;
  • an allegation against employees or the department which tends to indicate an actual or potential defect in departmental rules, regulations, procedures, directives, orders, or department services; or
  • a request for an Administrative Investigation in accordance with collective bargaining agreements or as authorized by the department.The department accepts, records, and investigates complaints against DPS personnel. 
Complaints can be accepted by any member of the department. They can be made in person at a post, over the phone, or by filing a notice of employee conduct online. If a complaint is made to the post or detachment, a supervisor is required to determine if the complaint:
 
  • meets the definition of a complaint.
  • facts are known and obvious.
  • if criminal acts are alleged.
 
All complaints will either be handled by a supervisor or become an administrative investigation (AI) conducted by the Office of Professional Standards (OPS). AIs are requested through the appropriate Director’s Office.  They are typically requested for allegations of severe misconduct and can result in serious discipline up to and including termination.  Allegations of criminal wrongdoing are investigated by the Alaska Bureau of Investigation (ABI). 
 
Complaint allegations can resolve with one of the four below findings:
  • Unfounded – The allegation is false and has no factual basis.
  • Exonerated – Where the act(s) complained of occurred but was found to be justified, lawful, and proper, or in accordance with current policy or procedure.
  • Not Sustained – The evidence is insufficient to prove or disprove the allegation and further investigation is not likely to develop additional facts.
  • Sustained – The allegation is supported by sufficient proof. 
If the result of the supervisor’s review or AI sustain allegations of wrongdoing, then the Chain of Command and Human Resources will work together to schedule an employee conference. At the conference the employee will have the opportunity to offer any mitigating information they wish the Chain of Command to consider before discipline is decided upon. 
 
The DPS corrective discipline measures include; written warning, written reprimand, suspension, demotion, and termination. Counseling and instruction are also potential resolutions for complaints; however, they are considered corrective measures and not discipline. 
 
The Office of Professional Standards does not track submissions to the APSC.  The DPS Human Resources submits information to APSC in accordance with 13 AAC 85.090 (d).
 
Public Safety Employees Association (PSEA) employees can request warnings and reprimands be purged from their file two (2) years after the date of issuance (subject to Article 10.01 C, which stipulates the document can only be purged if no additional disciplinary actions are taken for similar conduct).  Suspensions, demotions, and terminations are not eligible for purge.
 
The PSEA contract, which outlines DPS disciplinary actions and PSEA grievances can be found online here.
 
*Trooper Series is defined as Recruits, Troopers, Investigators, Corporals, Sergeants, Lieutenants, Captains and Majors.
 
The DPS received 123 external complaints against those in the State Troopers series in the Division of Alaska State Troopers (AST). They were determined to be the following:
 
  • Unfounded: 101
  • Not Sustained: 7
  • Exonerated: 7
  • Sustained: 5
  • Not Closed Out: 3
 
The DPS received 21 external complaints against those in the State Troopers series in the Division of Alaska Wildlife Troopers (AWT).  They were determined to be the following:
 
  • Unfounded: 18
  • Not Sustained: 2
  • Not Closed Out: 1
DPS recorded 50 internal complaints against those in the State Troopers series in the Division of Alaska State Troopers (AST).  They were determined to be the following:
 
  • Unfounded: 5
  • Not Sustained: 1
  • Sustained: 44
 
*Internal complaints typically involve at-fault vehicle collisions, conduct unbecoming, alleged criminal activity, negligent discharge of a weapon, improper workplace behavior, and mishandling of evidence.
 
DPS recorded 13 internal complaints against those in the State Troopers series in the Division of Alaska Wildlife Troopers (AWT).  They were determined to be the following:
 
  • Unfounded: 2
  • Sustained: 11
  • Termination: 5
  • Resignation in Lieu of Termination: 2
  • Discipline: 32
The DPS conducts thorough reviews of all Use of Force incidents through its Office of Professional Standards. If a Use of Force incident results in major injury or death, an investigation is conducted by the Alaska Bureau of Investigation then is reviewed by the Office of Special Prosecutions in the Department of Law. DPS Use of Force Stats can be found online here.
 
RECORDING DEVICES
Digital audio recorders and in-car video are used by Troopers on a regular basis. The proper use of recording devices allows for accurate documentation of statements made during officer-public contacts, arrests, formal interviews, and other incidents. They also serve to enhance the accuracy of reports and court testimony. The use of recording devices can also be used to provide an accurate and un-biased record of an incident for investigative purposes, risk management, civil liability defense and enhancement of officer safety.
While on duty, all Troopers shall make every effort to digitally record their interactions with the public during traffic enforcement, citizen complaints, arrests, situations that the officer believes would generate an incident in Alaska Records Management System, or other situations where the officer believes it would be beneficial to have a digital recording. Additional information regarding audio recordings can be found in chapter 222 of the DPS Operating Procedures Manual.
Most AST marked patrol units in A North (Kenai Peninsula) and B Detachments (Mat-Su Borough and Copper River Basin), as well as the unmarked patrol vehicles utilized by the Alaska Bureau of Highway Patrol located in B Detachment, have in-car video systems. The DPS intends to install the same video systems in marked patrol units in D Detachment (Interior) when funding becomes available. The bulk of Alaska's population resides and recreates within and around A North, B and D Detachments. Additionally, these areas are along Alaska's road system where the resource of an in-car video system is the most advantageous to the department and Alaskans. Both A South (Southeast Alaska) and C Detachment (Western Alaska and Kodiak) are rural and not connected to the main road system and do not engage in as much traffic enforcement or response to calls using patrol cars.
BWC are not widely used in Alaska and each department makes the decision on whether to use them. Currently, the DPS does not utilize BWC due to a number of factors, to include cost. The implementation costs of cameras and hardware are greatly overshadowed by the cost of data storage, administrative review processes, and manually redacting images and audio with personal identifying information from the videos to comply with public records requests. Additionally, BWC can increase the need for additional law enforcement officers to allow for enough overlap in shifts due to administrative overhead required when using cameras. Officers could spend approximately an hour at the end of each shift on BWC evidence submission alone and separate from other already required administrative processes which include time keeping, evidence processing, and paperwork relating to arrests. This means officers are off the streets during this time.  DPS would support the use of BWC if supported with adequate financial resources to do so.