Village Public Safety Officers will soon be able to carry fire arms if Governor Sean Parnell signs a measure approved this morning in the Senate.
Senator Donny Olson spoke the bill’s behalf.
“House Bill 199 clearly establishes the legislators intent to go ahead and allow those VPSOs in various villages to carry firearms,” Olson said. “This does not mandate that they have to but it does allow them to go ahead and lift that restriction that has been there by the Department of Public Safety from the past.”
Under HB 199 regional non-profits have the final say in whether or not they want VPSOs to carry weapons. Some non-profits, like the Tanana Chiefs Conference, sent letters urging legislators to support the measure. And none of them came out against it.
The bill allows up to 20 qualified VPSOs a year to travel to the police academy in Sitka for comprehensive firearms training, as well as use of deadly force instruction. The Department of Public Safety will absorb the $62,000 a year in costs.
The measure comes in the context of rising rates of rural violence, and debates throughout the state on how to improve public safety in communities off the road system. Violence that claimed the life of a Village Public Safety Officer last year.
“We all remember that sad day on March 19th, 2013 when the unarmed VPSO Thomas Madole in Manakotake got into the line of fire,” Olson said. “This is a response to that so that with proper training they’ll be allowed to go ahead and be armed.”
HB 199 was approved on the Senate floor unanimously. It now heads to the governor’s desk for final approval.