Resolution 2020-03: Support to Reform the VPSO Program

WHEREAS, Tanana Chiefs Conference (TCC) is an Alaska Native tribal health and social services consortium established by the Interior Alaska tribes and tribal communities, to provide a unified voice in advancing
sovereign tribal governments through the promotion of physical and mental wellness, education, socioeconomic development and culture of the Interior Alaska Native; and

WHEREAS, While the VPSO program has provided valuable service to participating areas, the past decade has seen shrinking numbers of VPSOs, significant difficulty in recruitment and retention of officers, and community needs that surpass the current duties of VPSOs. There is undoubtedly a need to address the crisis in public safety infrastructure and service in rural Alaska; The VPSO contractors are in the best position to know and understand the training and experience needs required to offer effective law enforcement for their communities; and

WHEREAS, Training for VPSO should be improved through federal partnerships for access to federal law enforcement training programs; offering training closer to home for other regions could improve VPSO
recruitment and retention; Consider creating upward mobility for VPSO positions: either through compacting or state statutory changes or both, consider providing for different levels of VPSO personnel; and

WHEREAS, Greater recurring federal funds for public safety could be improved if the State of Alaska supports federal law which provides the tribal authority to address criminal action such as the Alaska Tribal Public
Safety Empowerment Act, S. 2616; and

WHEREAS, Passage of a state version of the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act, could formally compact with Tribes and offer the maximum amount of program design/redesign and financial flexibility for the various VPSO contractors; and

WHEREAS, The current VPSO statute contains no clear law enforcement function or duties for VPSO personnel; and

WHEREAS, Historic and current Department of Public Safety statutory and program interpretation has denied to the contractors organizations an effective voice in the planning and implementation of this important program for the benefit of the residents within their respective regions; and

WHEREAS, Current regulations require the contractors to provide certain infrastructure or absorb additional liability and costs but forbid grant funds from covering the expenses; examples include Contractors must provide housing and program related facilities (office space, holding cells) and contractors must indemnify the state for liability arising from the program’s operations and thereby incur the associated insurance cost.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Tanana Chiefs Conference Full Board supports an update to the VPSO statutes to provide a clear law enforcement and public safety vision and mission for the program and
provide VPSO personnel clear law enforcement duties and powers; the creation of more financial flexibility for the VPSO contractors organizations into the updated VPSO statutes; Restore VPSO funding levels to FY18 levels as a start to meeting the actual need; an updated VPSO statute, mandate that grant awards pay contractors organization their full indirect costs; and Move financial grant management to the Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development; In statute create a Tribal/Contractors organization consultation process before the Department drafts any changes including training and experience requirements; and Revised versions (consistent with the recommendations of this report) of current VPSO regulations need to be placed in statute in order to operationalize the VPSO program and to facilitate the contract/grant management moving to the Department of Commerce.

Submitted by: Executive Board


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