Alaska Governor Sarah Palin [on July 7, 2009] signed House Bill 106 in Kotzebue this morning. The bill, sponsored by Representative Reggie Joule, allows municipalities with a population of less than 10,000 to administer the Village Public Safety Officer (VPSO) program if the nonprofit regional corporation has declined to do so (VPSO, 2009, Â¶1).
“Changing the current state law is necessary, so that communities of less than 10,000 residents can still receive funding support from the state to ensure the safety of their residents,” Governor Palin said (VPSO, 2009, Â¶2).
Under current state law, the Department of Public Safety is only permitted to assist the corporations with appointment, training, supervision and retention of VPSOs, and only these tribal entities can be awarded grants to administer the program (VPSO, 2009, Â¶3).
The bill passed both the House and the Senate unanimously (VPSO, 2009, Â¶4).
Background — About VPSOs
To understand what Governor Palin signed and why it is significant, we must first understand who are Village Public Safety Officers. The Alaska Department of Public Safety Village Public Safety Officer Program Results Delivery Unit Budget Summary delineates the VPSO program in great detail. “The mission of the Village Public Safety Officer program is to preserve public peace, and protect life and property in rural villages” (Budget Summary, 2009, p. 2).
“Throughout rural Alaska, Village Public Safety Officers (VPSOs) are often the first responders to incidents, and/or the only individuals immediately available to provide a broad range of public safety services in their village. These functions range from basic law enforcement, to probationer and parolee supervision, to provision of first aid to the injured, to assisting with search and rescue missions, and with fire prevention activities” (Budget Summary, 2009, p. 2).
“VPSOs are employees of regional non-profit corporations but may receive direction from village leadership while receiving training and support from state troopers. At any given point in time, there are only about 45 to 50 filled VPSO positions due to challenges with recruiting qualified applicants” (Budget Summary, 2009, p. 2).
Furthermore, “State troopers travel to VPSO villages in support of the VPSOs. During these visits, troopers provide training on specific subjects such as writing reports and search and rescue coordination. The close working relationship between VPSOs and troopers helps foster a unified law enforcement team for rural Alaska” (Budget Summary, 2009, p. 2).
Finally, “The services provided by the VPSO Contracts component include the funding of the grants to Native regional non-profit organizations that manage and implement the VPSO program.”
What Governor Palin Did….
From the foregoing, we have more than sufficient background to understand what Governor Palin did and why it is an accomplishment item for her. Heretofore, villages with populations under 10,000 could only receive assistance from Alaska’s Department of Public Safety in handling certain aspects of the VPSO program. The legislation she signed permits these villages to fully administer the VPSO program and receive funding.
Governor Palin Signs House Bill 106. (2009, July 7). State of Alaska, Governor. Retrieved July 7, 2009 from: http://www.gov.state.ak.us/news.php?id=1952
State of Alaska FY2009 Governor’s Operating Budget Department of Public Safety Village Public Safety Officer Program
Results Delivery Unit Budget Summary. (2007, December 13). State of Alaska, Governor. Retrieved July 7, 2009 from: http://gov.state.ak.us/omb/09_omb/budget/PublicSafety/rdu161.pdf