Dunleavy promised to fund VPSO recruits, but his administration is undermining recruitment: Report

Dunleavy stands while AFN co-chair Will Mayo chides protestors for interrupting the governor's address.

When Gov. Michael J. Dunleavy and Department of Public Safety Commissioner Amanda Price took the stage at the Alaska Federation of Natives’ annual convention earlier this month, they pledged their dedication to public safety and promised to fund Village Public Safety Officers.

“If there are recruits for the VPSO programs,” the governor said, “we will provide the funding to support those positions.”

The key word in his promise, it turns out, is “if.”

IF you can find the recruits, then the state will fund them.

People familiar with the VPSO program told us that the promise rang hollow because the state has seemingly done all it can to get in the way of recruitment of the officers, which is already an uphill challenge with remote locations, travel restrictions and limited housing.

It’s easy to promise to fund VPSO officers on the one hand, our sources explained, when the state’s undermining efforts to recruit officers with the other hand.

A new report by the Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica brings this issue into clear focus, highlighting how the Dunleavy administration has rejected the vast majority of requests from VPSO employers to recruit and retain officers.

This year, the administration of Gov. Mike Dunleavy, a Republican, has used job vacancies as justification to deny certain requests for VPSO funding and to cut the allotment in the state budget. Dunleavy and his public safety commissioner, Amanda Price, said that the money wasn’t going to be spent anyway and that the cuts caused no harm to the dwindling VPSO force.

But the state also denied requests to pay for VPSO recruitment advertising and for equipment such as fingerprint scanners, evidence lockers and anti-suicide blankets designed so they cannot be rolled into a noose, according to a Daily News and ProPublica review of state Department of Public Safety contracts.

Of the $55,775 that VPSO employers requested for recruitment and advertising to attract new candidates, the Department of Public Safety denied all but $15,775. The Northwest Arctic Borough, which serves 10 Inupiaq villages, has no VPSOs and asked for $1,000 in monthly recruitment funding. The state OK’d $200.

The requests were in the thousands of dollars according to documents requested by Hopkins, covering things like fuel, travel, fingerprint scanners and anti-suicide blankets.

Dunleavy was asked about this when he walked off the stage at AFN and said his administration shouldn’t be judged about what it’s already done. But his answer contains the same caveat that made his on-stage promise fall on skeptical ears.

“All I can answer is what we’ll be doing forward,” he said. “We’re going to be funding all the positions and the recruits that the nonprofits are able to find.”

Why it matters

Alaska Native legislators have regularly raised concerns about how the Dunleavy administration is handling public safety in rural Alaska (though many note that the problems have existed before the Republican took office) and have sparred with the administration, primarily in the House’s Tribal Affairs Committee.

The relatively small amount of money in question, $55,000 statewide, is not likely to sit well with legislators.

Recall that the governor’s office has spent at least $32,672 on Facebook ads, including $222 to support Price’s confirmation, $700 to blast the striking ferry workers and a whopping $18,902 to “Restore the PFD.”

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2 Comments on "Dunleavy promised to fund VPSO recruits, but his administration is undermining recruitment: Report"

  1. This issue is becoming very tiresome, and the local government, regional tribal governments needs to understand what has caused this problem in the first place.

    I am from small village of Newtok, and I have seen total corruption among the uniformed personnel both State of Alaska, and local law enforcement level.

    What makes this issue worse, the major drug dealers-also known as Drug Cartel, were in control of small villages and/also Bethel Court branch/AST Bethel were among the circle.

    Some of the people who were involved with the gang related activities here in Anchorage, Alaska did caused more problems when they moved to the small village and that is exactly what happened at the small of Newtok.

    How are we going to find a solution to the problem?

    Major overhaul of the suspected local tribal governments within the State of Alaska-at the regional tribal government such as AVCP-renewed criteria for VPSO program-getting rid of the bad apples to ensure public safety within their perspective area.

    Start a conversation-find a people who are being blackballed participating in this process, and let them tell their story.

    Since, I have a very limited time, I will let someone who is reading this to add more.

  2. There’s a lot of problems wrong with the VPSO program. The first one is the same people who run the nonprofit organization have been in charge for to long.
    This program went through the death throws and died, finally, during the Walker administration. AFN and all the administrative, stuck in the mud thinkers that have run this program for the last 30 years , just have to shoot the evil arrow of blame at any one, but some one inside thier own malfunctioning system.

    Dunleavys not the blame, the overpaid executives running the program are..

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