Village Public Safety Officer Program Expands

Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau

The Tlingit and Haida Central Council is expanding its Village Public Safety Officer program.

T & H recently added four VPSO positions – two in Kake, one in Hydaburg and one in Pelican. That’s in addition to officers already in Angoon and Thorne Bay. Program coordinator Jason Wilson says the Central Council is looking to fill positions in Gustavus, Kaasan and Saxman.

The Parnell administration and state legislators this year appropriated more than $11 million for VPSO programs statewide. That’s an increase of more than $1.5 million from last year.

While funding and program oversight comes from the Department of Public Safety, VPSOs are employed by local Native organizations. Tlingit and Haida received nearly $680,000 in this year’s operating budget to manage the program in Southeast – up about $211,000 from last year. Wilson says having a VPSO can make a huge difference to a community.

Wilson says the Central Council and state troopers work closely with local tribal councils and governments to find a good VPSO for each community. VPSOs don’t carry guns, but do investigate crimes and can make arrests. There are currently 71 VPSOs serving small communities in Alaska.

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