A proposal would allow rural Alaska’s VPSOs to carry firearms on the job

by Dermot Cole, AlaskaDispatch  |  published on December 2, 2013

Many Village Public Safety Officers would soon be armed with more than pepper spray, Tasers, handcuffs and batons under proposed regulations released this week by the Department of Public Safety. The state does not need to amend the law to allow VPSOs to carry firearms, as it is simply a regulation that prevents the officers from being armed. The law is silent on the matter, a department spokeswoman says.

The regulation to be repealed, in effect since 1995, specifically prohibits a VPSO from carrying a gun, except in an emergency. The officers cover a wide range of community needs, from search-and-rescue efforts to fighting crime, in some of the most remote parts of the state.

The department has come up with proposed language that say VPSOs would be allowed, at the discretion of their employers, to carry firearms if they receive basic firearms training from the Alaska Police Standards Council or some other group.

The program is state funded and administered by regional Native non-profit groups in most cases. Individual villages and the non-profits would work together in deciding how to handle the gun issue.

They would have to file a report with the state any time an officer “points any firearm in the direction of a person,” the proposed regulations say.

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