Rep. Chuck Kopp, R-Anchorage, center, speaks about the House passing a crime bill during a press conference with Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, left, and Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole, at the Capitol on Wednesday, May 8, 2019. Kopp will be one of the co-chairs of a group tasked with improving the Village Public Safety Officers program. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Rep. Chuck Kopp, R-Anchorage, center, speaks about the House passing a crime bill during a press conference with Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, left, and Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole, at the Capitol on Wednesday, May 8, 2019. Kopp will be one of the co-chairs of a group tasked with improving the Village Public Safety Officers program. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Legislature will take closer look at rural justice

Work group will focus on Village Public Safety Officer program

On Thursday, the Alaska Legislature formed a joint working group that will search for ways to improve the state’s Village Public Safety Officers (VPSO) program.

Members of both the Alaska House and Alaska Senate will be on the group, and will aim to compile a list of recommendations by Jan. 31, 2020 to result in effective legislation in the 2020 legislative session

The VPSO program was created in the 1970s to give rural communities important public safety resources. Today, approximately 40 men and women who are employed through the program serve as the first — and often the only — law enforcement presence in many communities.

Turnover is high in the program, and rural communities are often left without any law enforcement. The main focus of the Legislature’s work group is finding ways to increase the number of VPSO officers.

Sen. Donny Olson and Rep. Chuck Kopp will serve as co-chairs, and Sens. Click Bishop and Mike Shower and Reps. Bryce Edgmon (the current Speaker of the House) and George Rauscher will also serve on the working group.

Olson, a Democrat from Golovin, can be contacted through his office at sen.donny.olson@akleg.gov or 465-3707. Kopp, a Republican from Anchorage, can be contacted through his office at rep.chuck.kopp@akleg.gov or 465-4993.

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