Legislators create VPSO Working Group

Senate President Cathy Giessel and House Speaker Bryce Edgmon have announced the creation of the Village Public Safety Officer working group.

Presiding officers of the House and Senate, Giessel and Edgmon, made the announcement via a letter to the members of the Alaska Legislature dated May 9th, 2019.

Below is the following announcement:

This letter is to announce, as the Presiding Officers of the House and Senate, the creation of a Joint House/Senate Working Group (working group) for the purposes of providing substantive policy recommendations related to Alaska Village Public Safety Officers Program (VPSO) for submittal to the Alaska legislature no later than January 31, 2020.

Background

The VPSO program was created in the late 1970’s to provide rural communities with critically needed public safety at the local level. The VPSO program today is plagued with high turnover and retention rates that are epidemic in proportion and leave many small communities in Alaska, challenged by long response distances, difficult weather and transportation challenges, without any law enforcement presence. As this document is being generated, the program has approximately 40 VPSO’s in place serving over 150 remote communities.

Working Group

The working group, in coordination with all stakeholders, will be tasked with providing options for the legislature to consider to structurally revamp the VPSO program during the 2020 legislative session. The solutions will primarily address the core problem of increasing the number of Village Police Safety Officers available to communities. It will address other fundamental issues such as: inequity in pay, lack of housing, officer safety, low morale, and inability to generate more interest from applicants in rural Alaska, and the role of Alaska Native Tribes as a possible solution will be considered.

This working group will consist solely of members from the legislature including, three members each from the House and Senate, with one being from the minority caucus of each body. A member from each body shall be designated as a co-chair.

As such we are pleased to announce the following members as appointees to the 2019-2020 VPSO Working Group:

Senator Donny Olson, Co-Chair

Senator Click Bishop

Senator Mike Shower

Rep. Chuck Kopp, Co-Chair

Rep. Bryce Edgmon

Rep. George Rauscher

For more information please contact the offices of the presiding officers.

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