Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - The Alaska Legislature on Thursday announced the creation of a joint House-Senate working group that will look for ways to substantively improve the Village Public Safety Officers program.
In the late 1970s, the VPSO program was created to provide rural communities critically needed public safety resources. Today, approximately 40 men and women who are employed through the program serve as the first – and often the only – law enforcement presence in many communities. However, the program is plagued with high turnover and poor retention rates that leave many communities without any law enforcement.
“The State of Alaska must do a better job of making communities across Alaska safe,” Senate President Cathy Giessel said. “Improving the VPSO program and positioning the officers who serve in rural villages for success is crucial to this effort.”
“Alaskans deserve to feel safe wherever they live,” House Speaker Bryce Edgmon said. “For far too long, many rural residents have gone without any public safety infrastructure in their communities. This is unacceptable, and finding meaningful solutions requires the sort of nonpartisan cooperation that is behind this working group.”
Sen. Donny Olson and Rep. Chuck Kopp will serve as co-chairs, and Sens. Click Bishop and Mike Shower and Reps. Edgmon and George Rauscher will also serve on the working group.
The lawmakers will submit recommendations by January 31, 2020, to enable discussion during the legislative session next year. Solutions will primarily address the core problem of increasing the number of Village Police Safety Officers available to communities. A wide variety of stakeholders will be consulted throughout this process.