by Jacob Tobeluk
I remember a time when the VPSO Program was family. Each peace officer in their village had their own way of dealing with problems and each had their own values.
But all and all it was family and I, myself, always felt welcome to “put in my two cents” but over time as I began to see how things really were, it became more of a dog-eat-dog program.
The men and women in uniform are deeply respected in my heart and there are days that I look at pictures of the comrades I once had, and can’t help but to think of how good it was to be part of that group.
Over time this program morphed into a systematic program where we were asked to do our jobs and be punished for others who weren’t doing their jobs, regardless if we deserved it or not.
There were times where we would be pushed around by several entities which each felt an entitlement to do so. This made it difficult to do our jobs.
“Too many chiefs, not enough Indians.”
This type of work environment makes life difficult when you have to answer to our community needs, the program director, probation, the state troopers, and family.
After some time of trying to provoke a movement to improve the program we slowly started to move on with our lives and decided that our best option is to stop and just let it be.
Since I have been a VPSO in my community, I have seen firsthand how the program has fallen from a great 32 VPSO’s in our region to a pathetic 4.
When I first joined the ranks among the “old timers” they were a great influence to me to work harder than they did and hope that I made an impact for our region and my community.
During those years we started out with only a mere 11 VPSO’s of our 56 villages in our region. The standards were brought up and we were starting to get noticed by others.
I remember several times where we were needed by Troopers in another village to assist with investigations while our oversight went to investigate another incident in another village. I had been approached by community members and was asked if I was “fish cop” or a “trooper”. It was always good to be noticed like, because we took pride in our uniforms.
Over time, this pride was taken away by jaded thoughts of the nonprofit we worked for and the other entities we worked with, which directly affected our job performance and family.
After a short period of time this became the downfall of our men and women in uniform.
I personally believe in my heart that family within the ranks had a lot to do with retention, and a lot to do with having pride to wear the uniform and being part of the proud men and women who stood next to you.
Having a sense of safety, from your peers even if they stood several hundred miles away from you. Each of the officers who worked relentlessly in their communities knew they would have that web of friends who would be there to help them along the way with reassurance and push them forward to continue doing what they were trained to do.
Each of us had a role within our ranks and felt a need to help, and never asked for compensation, and donated our time to help our fellow officers.
During my years, we had met with influential individuals and expressed our concerns, and many times we were sent away with our tails tucked in between our legs.
If you take time to think to yourself, if you ever experienced working for an individual who never took the time to listen to your concerns, you begin to wonder how much more of your time you could spare. You begin to feel unwelcome and decide to move away.
I’m not writing this to toot my own horn or trying to say these people or the nonprofits are bad. But expressing myself because for the past four years the concern for law enforcement has been there and no one ever cared to ask why we quit to begin with.
I hope this letter helps open some eyes and helps improve the state we are in.
There are many things that were done right from management during my years, but a few things that were done wrong and many that weren’t even done at all.
Jacob Tobeluk writes from Nunapitchuk, Alaska.