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Report: Alaska public safety program needs clarification

Published: Jan. 14, 2020 at 11:29 AM AKST
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A working group in Alaska tasked with fixing a public safety program has completed a list of recommendations to send to state lawmakers after meeting an Anchorage this week.

AP reports Lawmakers formed the working group last year to fix the Village Public Safety Officer program, which has dealt with budget cuts, high turnover and fluctuating job descriptions.

The working group has held eight meetings across the state to gather feedback before coming up with the recommendations, officials said.

The biggest recommendation is to revise a state statute designating the programs’ responsibilities, said Republican Rep. Chuck Kopp, who co-chairs the working group.

The program was initially designed to assist with wildlife management and search and rescue efforts before it evolved into more policing and public safety efforts, Kopp said.

“It had much less emphasis on law enforcement, you know, keeping the law, apprehending violators and keeping people safe. But then the program kind of just dramatically evolved,” Kopp said.

Other issues such as funding and high turnover would benefit from a revised statute, he said.

The recommendations come after U.S. Attorney General William Barr declared a public law enforcement emergency in June and the U.S. Justice Department approved about $11 million in funding for federal law enforcement programs, officials said.

The working group plans to finalize the recommendations by the end of the month, officials said.

The group expects to focus on revising the statute during the 2020 Legislative session, which starts on Jan. 21 in Juneau, Kopp said.

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