Legislature(2017 - 2018)BELTZ 105 (TSBldg)

03/05/2018 01:30 PM JUDICIARY

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01:34:59 PM Start
01:35:22 PM Presentation: Village Public Safety Officer Program
02:54:52 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
+ Presentation: TELECONFERENCED
Village Public Safety Officer Program
- Victor Joseph, Chief, Tanana Chiefs Conference
- Richard Peterson, Chief, Central Council
Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
              SENATE JUDICIARY STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                             
                         March 5, 2018                                                                                          
                           1:34 p.m.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
Senator John Coghill, Chair                                                                                                     
Senator Pete Kelly                                                                                                              
Senator Bill Wielechowski                                                                                                       
Senator Click Bishop                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Senator Mia Costello                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
PRESENTATION: VILLAGE PUBLIC SAFETY OFFICER PROGRAM                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
     - HEARD                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                              
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
No previous action to record                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
VICTOR JOSEPH, Chief                                                                                                            
Tanana Chiefs Conference                                                                                                        
Fairbanks, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT: Participated in the presentation on the                                                                   
Village Public Safety Officer Program.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
RICHARD PETERSON, Chief                                                                                                         
Central Council Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska                                                                         
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT: Participated in the presentation on the                                                                   
Village Public Safety Officer Program.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
SERGEANT JODY POTTS, Director                                                                                                   
Tanana Chiefs Conference                                                                                                        
Village Public Safety Officer Program                                                                                           
Fairbanks, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION  STATEMENT:  Participated  in the  presentation  on  the                                                             
Village Public Safety Officer Program.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
JASON WILSON, Public Safety Manager                                                                                             
Tlingit Haida Central Council                                                                                                   
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION  STATEMENT:  Participated  in the  presentation  on  the                                                             
Village Public Safety Officer Program.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
NICK GASCA, Deputy General Counsel                                                                                              
Tanana Chiefs Conference (TCC)                                                                                                  
Fairbanks, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in  support of the  Village Public                                                             
Safety Officer Program.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                              
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
1:34:59 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  JOHN   COGHILL  called   the  Senate   Judiciary  Standing                                                             
Committee meeting  to order at 1:34  p.m. Present at the  call to                                                               
order were Senators Bishop, Wielechowski, and Chair Coghill.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
^Presentation: Village Public Safety Officer Program                                                                        
      PRESENTATION: VILLAGE PUBLIC SAFETY OFFICER PROGRAM                                                                   
                                                                                                                              
1:35:22 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR COGHILL  announced the business before  the committee would                                                               
be to  hear a presentation  on the Village Public  Safety Officer                                                               
(VPSO) Program. He noted that  the commissioners of public safety                                                               
and corrections were in the  audience and expressed gratitude for                                                               
the work VPSOs do daily.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
1:37:09 PM                                                                                                                    
VICTOR  JOSEPH, Chief/Chairman,  Tanana Chiefs  Conference (TCC),                                                               
Fairbanks, Alaska,  introduced himself and TCC  staff and thanked                                                               
the committee for  the opportunity to discuss  the Village Public                                                               
Safety Officer (VPSO) Program.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
1:37:42 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR KELLY joined the committee.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
CHIEF JOSEPH  stated that TCC  manages about 200  grants totaling                                                               
about $190 million, primarily in  health services programs. About                                                               
75  percent  of  the  organization  is  devoted  to  health  care                                                               
services and  employs about 900  employees. Sixty percent  of the                                                               
employees  reside in  Fairbanks and  40 percent  reside in  rural                                                               
areas in  the Interior covering  about 235 square  miles. Putting                                                               
that  in perspective,  it's a  little smaller  than the  state of                                                               
Texas. He  noted that the  48 state grant programs  Tanana Chiefs                                                               
has been managing total about $8 million.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
1:39:19 PM                                                                                                                    
RICHARD  PETERSON, President,  Central  Council  Tlingit &  Haida                                                               
Indian  Tribes of  Alaska ("Tlingit  &  Haida"), Juneau,  Alaska,                                                               
stated that Tlingit & Haida  is a federally recognized tribe that                                                               
only operates tribal  programs. They do not  administer health or                                                               
housing,  which is  slightly different  than regional  nonprofits                                                               
like  TCC. Tlingit  & Haida  represents more  than 30,000  tribal                                                               
citizens  world-wide  as  well as  citizens  of  other  federally                                                               
recognized tribes that reside within its service area.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
Tlingit & Haida also operates  programs for non-Native parents or                                                               
family members  of tribal children. These  include child support,                                                               
Tribal  Temporary Assistance  for Needy  Families (TANF),  Indian                                                               
Child  Welfare Act  (ICWA),  and services  in  tribal court  when                                                               
jurisdiction exists for divorces,  marriages, and guardianship of                                                               
tribal  children.  Tlingit  & Haida  has  a  vocational  training                                                               
center in  Juneau that  serves many  non-Natives that  offers the                                                               
only commercial driver's license  (CDL) course in Southeast. They                                                               
serve  both Head  Start  and RurAL  CAP  (Rural Alaska  Community                                                               
Action  Program,  Inc.), mostly  in  Southeast.  They run  tribal                                                               
transportation   services  in   many  communities   that  entails                                                               
building bus stops, sidewalks, and  other things that enhance the                                                               
transportation needs of their citizens.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Tlingit  &  Haida   has  a  budget  of  about   $30  million  and                                                               
administers  about   70  grants  following  fiscal,   state,  and                                                               
calendar years. They have about  245 employees in the region, 200                                                               
of  which are  in  Juneau. The  rest are  VPSO,  Head Start,  and                                                               
satellite TANF  locations in  Sitka and  Ketchikan. They  have 20                                                               
departments   serving   other   programs,  they   do   government                                                               
contracting, and have 600 employees  throughout the country. Most                                                               
recently they were  the successful bidder on a  project on Kodiak                                                               
where they have 60 employees.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
1:41:56 PM                                                                                                                    
SERGEANT JODY  POTTS, Director,  Tanana Chiefs  Conference (TCC),                                                               
Village Public Safety Officer  Program, Fairbanks, Alaska, stated                                                               
that she  has been  a VPSO  since 2009 and  was the  first female                                                               
VPSO sergeant in the program. She  related that she was raised in                                                               
Eagle and  recalls the  positive public  safety impact  the first                                                               
VPSO had on the community.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
She  explained that  the VPSO  Program  was created  in the  late                                                               
1970s to confront  rural crime issues that  the centrally located                                                               
Alaska State Troopers had difficulty  addressing. The program was                                                               
also  created to  save  money  for the  state.  The savings  come                                                               
through unfunded mandates on the  hosting communities whereby the                                                               
tribe or  city government  paid for  much of  the support  of the                                                               
VPSO. In  the 1980s and 1990s  many of the officers  made minimum                                                               
wage, used  their own equipment, and  paid for gas in  their work                                                               
vehicles  to do  patrols. Part  of the  reason for  that is  that                                                               
tribes do  not receive public  safety or law  enforcement funding                                                               
because of the federal statute, Public Law 280.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
SERGEANT  POTTS  advised  that   the  Native  nonprofit  regional                                                               
contractors  such as  Tlingit &  Haida, TCC,  Bristol Bay  Native                                                               
Association (BBNA), and others continue  to use their own funding                                                               
to make  the VPSO Program  as successful as  it can be  under the                                                               
current  restraints. The  legislature funds  the VPSO  positions,                                                               
the training,  and uniforms. Today,  38 rural communities  in the                                                               
TCC region  have a VPSO presence,  but 37 villages in  the region                                                               
have  no  law  enforcement presence.  Recruitment  and  retention                                                               
within the region has been difficult.  TCC is using its own funds                                                               
to  support  recruitment  activities  and  to  provide  broadband                                                               
internet.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
SERGEANT  POTTS said  rural Alaska  has  changed in  the last  40                                                               
years and  the needs  today are different  than when  the program                                                               
was  created. Communities  today are  impacted by  designer drugs                                                               
and polysubstance  use, which is  creating an  unsafe environment                                                               
for officers and  the community alike. The  current management of                                                               
the VPSO Program is not effecting change in the region.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
1:47:51 PM                                                                                                                    
JASON  WILSON,  Public Safety  Manager,  Central  Council of  the                                                               
Tlingit  & Haida  Indian Tribes  of Alaska  ("Tlingit &  Haida"),                                                               
Juneau, Alaska, stated  that Tlingit & Haida  has participated in                                                               
the VPSO  Program since it  was developed. He joined  the program                                                               
in  2009. He  explained that  in  2006 Tlingit  & Haida  returned                                                               
oversight of the program to the  state due to lack of funding for                                                               
a  coordinator position.  They took  it back  in 2009.  VPSOs now                                                               
serve the  communities of Kake,  Angoon, Saxman,  Hydaburg, Thorn                                                               
Bay, and Kasaan. The position in Pelican is vacant.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
MR. WILSON discussed recruitment  and retention difficulties that                                                               
started in 2015  and the housing shortage for  VPSOs despite help                                                               
from their sister  agency, Tlingit & Haida  Housing Authority. He                                                               
noted  that the  community  of  Saxman wrote  a  grant and  built                                                               
housing in that community for the  VPSO and other Tlingit & Haida                                                               
personnel. He  also discussed the  initial 15 percent cap  on the                                                               
indirect rate that  created a 26-27 percent  shortfall on Tlingit                                                               
& Haida's $1 million budget. He  noted that the cap was raised to                                                               
30 percent in 2009. He described the cap as an arbitrary number.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
1:54:38 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. PETERSON  explained that the  indirect rate,  which currently                                                               
is 32  percent, refers to  the negotiated amount Tlingit  & Haida                                                               
spends to operate  a grant. If an agency or  grantor doesn't meet                                                               
the full  indirect rate, Tlingit  & Haida  must come up  with the                                                               
balance. He agreed with Mr. Wilson that the cap is arbitrary.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  COGHILL  remarked that  the  legislature  was looking  for                                                               
partnerships, solutions, and ways to move forward.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
1:57:25 PM                                                                                                                    
NICK  GASCA, Deputy  General  Counsel,  Tanana Chiefs  Conference                                                               
(TCC), stated that  today he was speaking as an  advocate for the                                                               
VPSO program. He related that  in February 2017 the VPSO grantees                                                               
met  with  Commissioner  Monegan   to  voice  opposition  to  the                                                               
proposal to  make VPSOs  state employees  under the  Alaska State                                                               
Troopers.  The  commissioner  committed  to work  with  the  VPSO                                                               
caucus  and  contractors before  implementing  the  plan. To  his                                                               
knowledge that proposal is not  moving forward, but some of those                                                               
ideas have cropped  up in the legislature. That idea  and some of                                                               
the justifications as  well as some myths about  the VPSO Program                                                               
have been circulating.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
MR. GASCA  said the contractors,  the VPSO caucus, and  the state                                                               
share  the  common  goal  of providing  the  best  public  safety                                                               
possible  in rural  Alaska, but  they  do not  agree with  making                                                               
VPSOs state  employees. He highlighted  that the tribes  have not                                                               
been asked how they feel about this drastic change in policy.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MR.  GASCA  discussed  the  following  justifications  and  their                                                               
responses to the proposal to make VPSOs state employees.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
   1. If VPSOs were state employees, the Department of Public                                                                   
     Safety would have a direct relationship with the tribes and                                                                
     the tribal grantees would be the middlemen to the                                                                          
     Department of Public Safety (DPS).                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
He  pointed out  that they  don't act  as middlemen.  They gather                                                               
feedback,  address trends,  use their  resources to  advocate for                                                               
tribes, and  have authority to act  on behalf of the  tribes they                                                               
represent. DPS  doesn't have the  budget to do outreach  in rural                                                               
communities like  TCC is able to  do. He noted that  for the last                                                               
three  summers  Chief Joseph  has  visited  rural communities  to                                                               
listen  and  gather  information   about  concerns  and  pressing                                                               
issues.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
   2. If VPSOs were state employees, it would be easier to work                                                                 
     directly with tribes.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MR. GASCA  said nothing prevents  DPS from reaching  out directly                                                               
to tribes  now. Even if  that were to  happen it would  not solve                                                               
any problem.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
   3. Making VPSOs state employees would provide better cross                                                                   
     deputation   opportunities.   DPS   would   then   have   an                                                               
     opportunity to enforce tribal law in addition to state law.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MR.  GASCA said  they support  cross deputation  but that  can be                                                               
done right  now. The focus should  be on enforcing state  law and                                                               
reducing the crimes against women and helpless children.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
   4. Making VPSOs state employees would eliminate multiple                                                                     
     supervision layers for VPSOs and standardize the program                                                                   
     under DPS.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MR.  GASCA  advised that  VPSOs  are  currently supervised  by  a                                                               
contractor/coordinator and they follow TCC  and VPSO policies. He                                                               
added  that in  August 2016,  TCC  caucused with  DPS to  address                                                               
problems with supervision layers  and other impediments to smooth                                                               
operation.  TCC feels  progress has  been  made and  there is  no                                                               
reason to relocate the program under a new agency.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
  5. Making VPSOs state employees would generate cost savings.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
MR. GASCA said they have  not seen any budgetary justification to                                                               
show that this would result in a cost savings.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
   6. Making VPSOs state employees addresses liability concerns                                                                 
     for VPSOs as contractors.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
MR. GASCA  advised that TCC  is well aware of  liability concerns                                                               
but  is working  through them  just as  they have  with liability                                                               
concerns related to health care.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
   7. Making VPSOs state employees would provide tribes with                                                                    
     resident pipelines to the state.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MR. GASCA  pointed out that  rural hub communities  have resident                                                               
pipelines to  the state  through the  Alaska State  Troopers, but                                                               
many people still don't feel safe and are exposed to violence.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
He said  the bottom  line for contractors  is that  this proposal                                                               
would  lead  to  more  control  over  rural  law  enforcement  in                                                               
predominantly  Native  communities  and  it's  not  in  the  best                                                               
interest of rural  Alaska. He highlighted the  following from the                                                               
November  2013  Indian Law  and  Order  Commission report,  which                                                               
supports this position:                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
     The  strongly centralized  law enforcement  and justice                                                                    
     system in the  state of Alaska are  of critical concern                                                                    
     to the  Indian Law  and Order  Commission. They  do not                                                                    
     serve local  and Native  communities adequately,  if at                                                                    
     all. The  commission believes that  devolving authority                                                                    
     to   Alaska  Native   communities   is  essential   for                                                                    
     addressing  local  crime.  Their governments  are  best                                                                    
     positioned to effect arrest,  prosecute, and punish and                                                                    
     they should have the authority to  do so or to work out                                                                    
     volunteer  agreements with  each other  and with  local                                                                    
     governments  and  the   state  on  mutually  beneficial                                                                    
     terms.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MR. GASCA  reiterated that TCC  believes that making  VPSOs state                                                               
employees  is  a  step  in  the wrong  direction.  He  urged  the                                                               
legislature  to ask  the tribal  communities and  the contractors                                                               
who  run  these  rural  programs   what  they  think  about  this                                                               
proposal.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
2:11:05 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR COGHILL said  the points are well taken but  the Senate has                                                               
not entertained such  a proposal. He added that he  had heard the                                                               
rumor.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
MR. GASKA said that's good to hear.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
2:13:39 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  BISHOP  stated   that  he's  always  ready   to  have  a                                                               
conversation about potential solutions.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
CHIEF JOSEPH  said TCC heard  the rumor  and wanted to  make sure                                                               
their concerns  were expressed because  until recently  it's been                                                               
frustrating  to  work alongside  DPS  to  try to  effect  change.                                                               
Things have been going in  a more positive direction recently. He                                                               
said  he was  pleased that  Commissioner Monegan  and the  deputy                                                               
commissioner were present  to hear the concerns.  He talked about                                                               
collaborative  talks in  the Governor's  Tribal Advisory  Council                                                               
(GTAC)  meetings,   and  with  the  attorney   general's  office,                                                               
corrections, public  safety, and tribal contractors  to discuss a                                                               
successful program  going forward. He  stressed the need  to have                                                               
the   flexibility  and   authority  to   run  the   VPSO  program                                                               
efficiently  and  effectively. He  pointed  out  that TCC  has  a                                                               
nationally and  internationally recognized knowledge base  to run                                                               
successful programs. They want to  use that knowledge to design a                                                               
VPSO  program that  is  flexible  and meets  the  needs of  their                                                               
individual communities.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
2:23:53 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR COGHILL asked  if TCC was working with  the commissioner to                                                               
address regulatory issues.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
CHIEF  JOSEPH  replied  a  [GTAC]   subcommittee  is  looking  at                                                               
statutes,  regulations, and  administration  management. Some  of                                                               
the concerns  are regulatory, but  many of the issues  are within                                                               
the grant itself.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR COGHILL advised  that the legislature looks  at getting the                                                               
best benefit for the dollar.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHIEF JOSEPH  said DPS has  been returning program  money because                                                               
it's not  being spent and  TCC would like  to use that  money for                                                               
things like  needed gear, communication equipment,  and travel to                                                               
communities. He noted that the  House supports ensuring that $500                                                               
thousand is available for VPSO  travel. Having the flexibility to                                                               
use that  money like  they do  in other  contracts would  make it                                                               
possible to send officers where they're needed.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR COGHILL asked if contracts would need to be rewritten.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHIEF  JOSEPH  said they  are  required  to  make a  request  for                                                               
everything  outside   a  line   item,  which   takes  a   lot  of                                                               
administrative time.  Most contracts for state  programs have the                                                               
flexibility to move a certain  amount of money from one line-item                                                               
item to  another. He  said he  wants TCC to  be able  to maximize                                                               
resources and run a successful program.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
2:30:23 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. PETERSON said  the idea of compacting scares  some people but                                                               
the  tribes  are very  sophisticated  and  they are  accountable.                                                               
Compacting would  give the  flexibility to  design a  program for                                                               
all  of Southeast.  He agreed  with an  earlier comment  that the                                                               
tribal  viewpoint is  very  holistic looking  at  the health  and                                                               
wellbeing of  the whole community,  Native and  non-Native alike.                                                               
He  related  a  personal  story   to  illustrate  the  crisis  in                                                               
communities that do not have  a law enforcement presence. He said                                                               
he tries not  to be too dramatic, but you  don't know what scared                                                               
means until you've been held a  gunpoint by somebody high on meth                                                               
and you have no backup. This  is what people in rural Alaska face                                                               
and they may  only have a neighbor as backup.  He said bad things                                                               
happen in urban  areas too, but the police or  a SWAT team sweeps                                                               
in to neutralize the problem. He  said they are asking to use the                                                               
money that DPS  returns to the general fund each  year to build a                                                               
flexible VPSO  program that  fits the needs  of rural  Alaska. He                                                               
pointed out that we're all Alaskans and we should all feel safe.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  COGHILL said  the overlap  of state,  federal, and  tribal                                                               
authority is  problematic, but he  too maintains that  it's about                                                               
Alaskans. It's a continual push and  pull to work together but it                                                               
comes down  to cooperation  and getting the  dollars to  the best                                                               
place.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
MR.  PETERSON  countered  that  Tlingit   &  Haida  is  a  tribal                                                               
government, but  it is not  race based. Further, the  state would                                                               
not  need to  relinquish authority  if  it were  to compact  with                                                               
Tlingit & Haida and TCC to  develop a more relevant VPSO program.                                                               
He pointed  out that Tlingit  & Haida  is currently doing  an OCS                                                               
compact in  which the  state does not  give up  authority. Duties                                                               
are shared.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  COGHILL shared  that he's  been  part of  the problem  and                                                               
solution over the years.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MR.  PETERSON expressed  appreciation for  the work  that Senator                                                               
Coghill has done with tribal courts  and being a general ally. He                                                               
added that updating the VPSO  program can be done collaboratively                                                               
and for the best interest of Alaskans.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
CHIEF   JOSEPH  directed   attention  to   the  document   titled                                                               
Challenges and  Solutions that lists  five problems  and possible                                                               
solutions  for  the  40-year-old  VPSO  program.  Copies  are  in                                                               
members'  packets and  it is  posted on  line. He  said they  are                                                               
asking for  the committee's  support when it  looks at  the House                                                               
efforts.  He requested  adding travel  dollars  and changing  the                                                               
intent  language   to  allow   spending  the   appropriations  as                                                               
designed. He said it doesn't make  sense for them to give back $1                                                               
million when  there are  public safety needs  in rural  areas. He                                                               
restated that since the last GTAC  meeting there has been a shift                                                               
in  the  working relationship  with  DPS  thanks to  Commissioner                                                               
Monegan and Deputy Commissioner  Comer. He concluded his comments                                                               
saying we  need more  flexibility and  authority to  manage these                                                               
grants. Allow us to do our job and we'll do it successfully.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
2:40:09 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR BISHOP asked if VPSOs  have summer and winter uniforms or                                                               
just one for year-round use.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
SERGEANT POTTS  replied there is  just one type of  VPSO uniform.                                                               
It is  winter weight with long  sleeves, which is too  hot in the                                                               
Interior during  the summer. Things  like that contribute  to low                                                               
morale and  poor recruitment.  It wouldn't  be expensive  to make                                                               
some changes to the uniform and it would improve morale.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR BISHOP asked  if it's by design that 37  villages have no                                                               
law enforcement.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
SERGEANT POTTS said  no. TCC currently has two  VPSO rovers based                                                               
in Fairbanks  and one based  in Nenana. They have  requested more                                                               
rovers because housing shortages and  low wages make it difficult                                                               
to recruit  someone to  live and work  in small  communities that                                                               
have very high living costs.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  BISHOP asked  if their  recruitment  efforts reach  down                                                               
into grade schools to talk about what VPSOs do.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
SERGEANT POTTS said yes; VPSOs  regularly visit schools when they                                                               
travel to villages but there isn't  a lot of interest. She shared                                                               
that  about  four years  ago  Alaska  State Troopers,  FBI,  U.S.                                                               
Marshals, and VPSOs  visited schools along the  Yukon River. When                                                               
the  students were  asked  how  many wanted  to  be VPSOs  nobody                                                               
raised their hand, but lots of  kids were interested in the other                                                               
fields of law enforcement. She opined  that the kids could see or                                                               
sense the low morale and lack of support that VPSOs experience.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR BISHOP asked  if a lot of the problems  related to travel                                                               
and overtime would  be resolved if they didn't need  to return $1                                                               
million every year.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
CHIEF  JOSEPH said  yes, but  what  they are  requesting is  that                                                               
their  contracts  are  fully  funded   and  that  they  have  the                                                               
authority to move  money between the line items, just  as they do                                                               
on any  of the other contracts  they manage. This allows  them to                                                               
adjust the budget to make it work.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
2:46:02 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI  asked if they  have data on crime  rates in                                                               
villages with and without VPSOs.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
SERGEANT  POTTS said  yes; crime  numbers increase  significantly                                                               
when there  is a VPSO  in the  community because people  are more                                                               
inclined to report.  Once the VPSO has been in  the community for                                                               
some time, crime rates begin to fall.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  WIELECHOWSKI asked  if crime  is increasing  in villages                                                               
and why that might be.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
SERGEANT  POTTS said  she attributes  the increasing  crime to  a                                                               
lack  of  law enforcement  and  the  polysubstance abuse  they're                                                               
seeing in communities.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
CHIEF JOSEPH added  that his concern is the  number of unreported                                                               
and very serious crimes committed against people.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR COGHILL asked  what some of the unfunded  mandates are that                                                               
seem to be unsolvable.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
SERGEANT POTTS  cited the high  cost and limited  availability of                                                               
housing and the lack of secure holding cells.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  COGHILL thanked  the presenters  for bringing  forward the                                                               
potential solutions to the challenges and for the work they do.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
2:54:52 PM                                                                                                                    
There being  no further  business to  come before  the committee,                                                               
Chair Coghill  adjourned the Senate Judiciary  Standing Committee                                                               
meeting at 2:54 p.m.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
VPSO Program - Challenges and Solutions.pdf SJUD 3/5/2018 1:30:00 PM
JUD