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Village Public Safety Officer Program

First Responders - Last Frontier

Law enforcement in most rural areas is the primary responsibility of the Alaska State Troopers. From rural outposts, the Troopers attempt to respond immediately to emergency situations and for felony and misdemeanor cases. Their efforts, however, are often hampered by delayed notification, long response distance, and the uncertainties of weather and transportation.

In communities associated with the Village Public Safety Officer (VPSO) Program, citizens are afforded immediate response to emergencies without delays caused by weather or distance. Although VPSOs are not expected to handle high risk or complex investigative situations, they are the "First Responders" to situations in their communities. They supplement the efforts of the Alaska State Troopers. A VPSO can stabilize volatile situations and preserve a crime scene until the Troopers can arrive. VPSOs conduct and complete misdemeanor investigations with advice, guidance and support provided by the Alaska State Troopers. VPSOs may assist the Alaska State Troopers with a felony investigation at the direction of the investigating Trooper.

Alaska State Troopers and VPSOs are both crucial resources to the Department of Public Safety and the State of Alaska. These two public safety assets are not interchangeable in their roles within the criminal justice system nor within their general public safety responsibilities. The two are not comparable in their services nor in the commensurate costs that are involved in establishing their availability in the field.

There are specific Statute and Regulations that dictate how the program is structured and operated. Funding for the VPSO Program is appropriated by the legislature and managed by the Department of Public Safety. The funds are awarded to participating regional Native nonprofit corporations through grant requests. The native nonprofits are the employers for the VPSOs in their region. The primary purpose of the regional grant agreement is to place the local administration of the VPSO Program into the hands of an organization that is more aware of the specific needs the various communities have in their area. The local administration can also deal with a workable number of memorandum of agreements while retaining a certain amount of regional flexibility. Each employer, in coordination with the Division of Alaska State Troopers, selects which communities will be assigned VPSOs.

The VPSO works for the nonprofit/employer. The nonprofit/employer arranges for all salary payments based on the Salary Schedule in the grant agreement. Group insurance plans, retirement plans, and maintenance of full financial accountability of granted funds are also the responsibility of the nonprofit/employer.

Each grantee employs a VPSO Coordinator who manages the grant and serves as the primary liaison with the Department of Public Safety. These VPSO Coordinators meet quarterly to address relevant statewide issues, review and negotiate the annual grant agreement and VPSO Standard Operating Procedures.

 

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