About the VPSO Program
The Village Public Safety Officer (VPSO) Program began in the late 1970s as a means of providing rural Alaskan communities with needed public safety services at the local level. The program was created to assist with search and rescue incidents as well as to reduce the loss of life due to fires, drownings, and the lack of immediate emergency medical assistance in rural communities.
The VPSO Program was designed to train and employ individuals residing in the village as first responders to public safety emergencies such as search and rescue, fire protection, emergency medical assistance, crime prevention and basic law enforcement. The presence of these officers has had a significant impact on improving the quality of life in the participating villages. As a result, the Village Public Safety Officers (VPSOs) are generally the first to respond to many calls for help from community members; hence their motto: "First Responders - Last Frontier".
How the Program Works
Annually, each VPSO grantee submits an application and proposed budget to the Department of Public Safety. Funds appropriated from the legislature are awarded out to the grantees based on the following prioritization:
- Personnel services & fringe costs for all VPSOs currently employed or hired prior to June 30.
- One VPSO Coordinator position costs, funded only for activities directly related to the operation/management of the VPSO Program.
- Core functions of Travel, Contractual, and Supply for the program.
- Fully funded indirect rates, provided that the statewide indirect total never exceeds 30%.
Each budget is prioritized to ensure that the programs receive enough funding to cover the essential costs for all employed VPSOs.
The VPSO Coordinators meet quarterly to work collaboratively on programmatic requirements, such as the Grant Agreement
and management of the program. During the VPSO Coordinator meetings, these activities are reviewed, updated and agreed upon by all 10 employers and the state prior to the new fiscal year. The grant agreement undergoes similar changes each fiscal year.
The VPSO is employed by the regional native nonprofit, tribe or borough that is responsible for the area of the state in which a VPSO works. The VPSOs' work is supervised only by the Corporation that hires them. The Oversight Troopers assigned to a VPSO provide advice, guidance and support to the VPSO in matters of public safety.
Both the Grantee and the Department have responsibilities that are outlined in the grant agreement. Negotiations into the terms and conditions of the grant agreement are conducted annually. Grantees are required to submit quarterly financial statements to the Department during the grant year and receive an annual on-site programmatic review which includes a financial review.
How is a VPSO Hired
Individuals who are interested in becoming a VPSO must apply to be a VPSO with one of the 10 VPSO employers through the organization's job application process. Once the organization is ready, they will send the VPSO Support Office at DPS the following:
- Grantee Job Application
- Certification of Eligibility Form
- Criminal Records Information Waiver
- Two Fingerprint Cards
- Copy of Birth Certificate/Passport or citizenship paperwork
- Copy of High School Diploma or GED
The VPSO Support Office will conduct a fingerprint-based background check and seek Criminal Justice Information Security clearance for each VPSO applicant. The Grantee is responsible for conducting an additional background check and reference check. Once the VPSO is hired by the Grantee and has passed the medical examination, hiring paperwork will be sent to the VPSO Support Office. The VPSO is then enrolled in the upcoming VPSO Certification Training, held by DPS.
A VPSO Recruit attends a nine (9) week VPSO certification training. Additionally, they attend a two (2) week training for rural fire protection. VPSOs recieve annual training for search and rescue, emergency medical services, fire protection and other law enforcement services.
Services a VPSO may provide to their Community
VPSO Employers enter into Memorandum of Agreements (MOA) with the communities that receive VPSO services. The MOA can vary dramatically between regions and even between communities within a region. In general, the VPSO provides the following services to their communities:
- Law Enforcement
- Patrols community
- Responds to calls for service
- Enforces state laws
- May investigate and enforce local ordinances that have been adopted by the Alaska Court System and posted on the Uniform Minor Offense table
- Shall participate in civil diversion of criminal charges to tribal courts in accordance with Department of Law agreements
- Investigates misdemeanor crimes
- May investigate a felony crime if working under the direction and oversight of an Alaska State Trooper
- May assist local, state and federal law enforcement agencies with official matters
- Delivers crime prevention and education materials information
- Serves process as assigned by the State Troopers
- Enforces State law with regard to aggressive animals
- Investigates animal cruelty and neglect complaints
- If qualified may administer rabies and other vaccines to animals
- Assist the Department of Corrections (DOC) Probation and Parole with the management and supervision of probationers and paroles residing in the community
- May assist the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) with formal and informal supervision of juvenile clients residing in the community
- Fire Protection
- Maintain community fire equipment
- Conducts fire drills at schools and other public buildings
- Attends fire department meetings
- Provides training to volunteer fire fighters
- Delivers fire prevention and education materials and information
- List out abandoned homes/buildings/risk
- Plan activities for Fire Safety Month
- Search & Rescue (SAR)
- Organizes and directs SAR teams
- Meets with and attends community SAR Team meetings
- Acts as a liaison for the Alaska State Troopers during search and rescue operations
- Inventories and maintains a list of search and rescue equipment available in the community
- May support or assist other entities or agencies engaged in search and rescue operations
- Mapping of the community and GPS
- Emergency Medical Services
- Responds to emergency calls to provide immediate care to the critically ill and injured
- May transport the patient to a medical facility for next level of care
- May assist a local health care provider with providing immediate care to a critically ill or injured patient
- Additional duties
- May work with community to set up a neighborhood watch program
- Assist elders/citizens in need
- Establish a group of citizens to serve as jail guards
- Review and update Small Community Emergency Response Plan
- Work with the school to review and update the Emergency Response Plan