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.
How to apply to be a VPSO
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
A VPSO training program includes:
(1) Physical methods of arrest, use of batons, use of chemical defensive weapons, and electronic control weapons;
(2) Instruction in Alaska criminal and procedural law, Alaska criminal justice system; and police procedures
(3) Domestic violence and sexual assault prevention and response procedures;
(4) Emergency trauma technician training;
(5) Search and rescue response training;
(6) And rural fire protection specialist training.
Currently, each VPSO completes 1,022 hours of training at the 16 week the Alaska Law Enforcement Training offered at the DPS Academy. In addition to the above topics, a VPSO also receives training in:
- Domestic Violence
- Search and Seizure
- Interview and Interrogation
- Crime Scene Investigation
- Use of Force
- Cold Water Survival
- Active Shooter
VPSO Job Duties
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