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About the VPSO Program

The Village Public Safety Officer (VPSO) program began in 1979 as a concept to address rural public safety. The VPSO program provides public safety services in rural Alaska by increasing response time to emergencies and provide an ongoing public safety presence to rural and remote communities in Alaska. 

A certified VPSO is trained in fire protection, emergency medical assistance, law enforcement, community policing, crime prevention and search and rescue. The presence of a VPSO in a community can have a positive impact on a community.

The VPSO is often the first responder when their community needs help; hence their motto: "First Responders - Last Frontier".
The VPSO program is funded and managed under the Department of Public Safety (DPS) and provides state funding to regional  Alaska Native organizations, or regional municipalities to hire, train and supervise VPSOs. The statewide program is comprised of 10 individual regional programs. A VPSO works directly for a regional program and DPS provides equipment, training and mentorship and facilitates coordination between the regional programs. 
Each regional program manages their program within the statutory framework of the statewide program. Communities and tribes which participate in the program, do so with a memorandum of agreement with their regional program. 
Individuals who are interested in becoming a VPSO must apply with one of the 10 VPSO grantees. DPS assists each regional employer by determining eligibility of an applicant minimum qualifications 
VPSO attend the DPS public safety academy in Sitka, Alaska alongside state troopers and other Alaska law enforcement professionals.

VPSO basic training includes instruction in the state's criminal and procedural law, the state's criminal justice system, police procedures, disabilities training described under AS 18.65.220(3), domestic violence and sexual assault prevention and response procedures, emergency trauma technician, search and rescue, and rural fire protection specialist training.
A certified VPSO has the power of a peace officer of the state, AS 18.65.686 and is charged with
  • Protection of life and property in the state
  • Fire prevention and suppression
  • Provision of emergency medical services
  • Participate in search and rescue efforts for missing or injured persons
  • Provide pre-trial, probation and parole supervision, under the direction of the Department of Corrections
  • Conduct investigations
  • Enforce criminal laws of the state or muicipality
  • Provide local training programs (hunter safety, water safety, etc.)
  • Other powers and duties customary to a peace officer in Alaska         

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