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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 funded by the state legislature is administered under the Department of Public Safety (DPS) as grants to the Alaskan regional organizations in AS  or regional municipalities. These regional grantees recruit for, hire, retain and supervise VPSOs. A VPSO works directly for the grantee, and is not a state employee. Qualifications, training and standards are covered in Alaska Statute (AS) 18.65.670-688 

 
18.65.670. Village public safety officer program.
  1. The village public safety officer program is created in the department, with funding appropriated to the department and disbursed by the commissioner through grants made under this section. The purpose of the program is to appoint, train, supervise, support, and retain persons to serve as village public safety officers.
  2. With funds appropriated for that purpose, the commissioner shall provide grants to nonprofit regional corporations and Alaska Native organizations for training and employment of village public safety officers. If a nonprofit regional corporation for a village or Alaska Native organization for the village does not exist or declines a grant under this subsection, the commissioner may provide the grant to a municipality with a population of less than 10,000 willing to administer the grant for the village. If a nonprofit regional corporation or Alaska Native organization declines a grant, the commissioner shall consult with the corporation or organization before awarding the grant to a municipality.
Individuals who are interested in becoming a VPSO can apply with one of the 10 VPSO regional programs. The department is responsible to complete a fingerprint-based state and national criminal history check to determine eligibility of an applicant minimum qualifications 
18.65.676. Training.
  1. A village public safety officer basic training program must provide
    1. a physical training program that includes instruction in physical methods of arrest, use of batons, use of chemical defensive weapons, and electronic control weapons;
    2. instruction in
      1. the state's criminal and procedural law;
      2. the state's criminal justice system;
      3. police procedures;
      4. disabilities training described under AS 18.65.220(3);
      5. domestic violence and sexual assault prevention and response procedures;
      6. emergency trauma technician training;
      7. search and rescue training;
      8. rural fire protection specialist training.
  2. An individual seeking a village public safety officer certificate under AS 18.65.682 shall attend all sessions of the basic training required under (a) of this section, unless the director of the training program approves an absence. An individual who is absent for more than 10 percent of the total hours of instruction has not successfully completed basic training.
  3. An individual who fails to comply with the attendance and performance requirements of the training program may be dismissed from the training. The department may not consider a dismissed individual to have successfully completed basic training.
  4. If a village public safety officer receives training that the department did not provide and the entity conducting the training provides a description of the training to the department, the department may take that training into account in determining the completion of basic training and accept other police officer or firefighter training and experience that covers the subject matter required under (a) of this section.
18.65.686. Powers and duties of village public safety officers.
  1. A village public safety officer who is certified under AS 18.65.682 has the power of a peace officer of the state or a municipality and is charged with
    1. the protection of life and property in the state, including through                               
      1. fire prevention and suppression;                                                             
      2. provision of emergency medical services; and                                                 
      3. participation in and coordination of search and rescue efforts for missing or injured persons;                                                                     
    2. providing pretrial, probation, and parole supervision to persons under supervision by communicating with and monitoring the activities and progress of these persons at the direction of pretrial services, probation, and parole officers;                          
    3. conducting investigations;                                                                        
    4. enforcing 
      1. the criminal laws of the state or a municipality;
      2. statutes or ordinances of the state or municipality punishable as a violation if the certified village public safety officer has completed training in that field of violation enforcement;
    5. providing local training programs on public safety; and
    6. the powers usually and customarily exercised by a peace officer.

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