Turnover Among Alaska Village Public Safety Officers: An Examination of the Factors Associated With Attrition
Group: University of Alaska Anchorage Justice Center
Since its inception in 1980, Alaska's Village Public Safety Officer (VPSO) program has provided policing and other public safety services (including fire fighting, search and rescue, water safety, and emergency medical services) to rural Alaska Native villages. The VPSO program was developed in response to public safety needs of the villages and to economies of scale, since individual villages could not generate resources for separate agencies to handle specific programs. Since 1983, the first year for which adequate records are available, turnover in the VPSO program has averaged 36 percent per year; that is, for every 100 VSPOs serving in a given year, 36 have quit or been fired. This turnover rate is far higher than in any other sector of the public safety labor force. This report, based on surveys of current and former VPSOs, examines the extent of and reasons for VPSO turnover, and considers the ramifications of these findings as they pertain to the overall objectives of the VPSO program, the problems of rural police departments, and the feasibility of community-oriented policing in sparsely populated areas. Marriage, service in a home village, connectedness to Alaska Native culture and the presence of other police officers all are factors associated with officers remaining with the VPSO program.
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