VPSO cuts and Dunleavy's empty talk of 'war on criminals'
The Anchorage Daily News story on the shortage of resources for rural policing in Alaska is an important piece of reporting on a topic that deserves continued coverage and a response by our elected officials.
There were more than 100 Village Public Safety Officers in Alaska 30 years ago. In 2017, there were 53. The ADN says there are now 42.
The demand for rural police protection has increased, but the number of VPSOs is down because it is impossible to get qualified candidates, given the working conditions and the wages.
The additional news coverage should start with an analysis of the contradictions raised by the governor’s plan to cut $3 million in funding for unfilled VPSO positions, while he spouts empty rhetoric about leading a new “war on criminals.”
“If you are a criminal, this is going to be a very dangerous place for you, starting now. I strongly suggest you get out while you can. No more coddling, no more excuses. Your days are over,” Dunleavy said in his State of the State speech.
“I’m going to go to great lengths to make sure we are safer, and you will see that reflected in my budget,” said Dunleavy, who all but proclaimed himself the new sheriff.
The tough talk is not reflected in his budget for village public safety officers. The budget goes to great lengths to project the Dunleavy budget fantasy that taxes are not necessary, avoiding the difficult details by turning to doubletalk.
In seeking to eliminate funding for vacant VPSO positions, Dunleavy justifies his approach by saying the positions are vacant and there is no need to appropriate money for vacant positions.
He ought to be looking at what it would take to fill those positions and how he would raise the money.
“The drop in VPSOs employed occurred despite pay increases, retention bonuses and approved funding for equipment and office improvements,” Dunleavy spokesman Matt Shuckerow told the Daily News as an attempted explanation of the VPSO cut. “As a result, Gov. Dunleavy’s budget proposal aligns funding and historic expenditures within the VPSO program.”
The lack of logic in this “as a result” gibberish needs to be examined by the Anchorage Daily News, not quoted for the readers’ pleasure and allowed to stand without challenge.
The business about the plan to “align funding and historic expenditures within the VPSO program” was also featured in the so-called “Honest Budget” overview from Dunleavy.
“Appropriating more money to the VPSO program than can be expended year after year does not improve public safety in rural Alaska. In an effort to ensure that we are using Alaskans dollars effectively each year, the VPSO program’s budget was adjusted to match projected expenditures based on historical averages,” the so-called Honest Budget says.
Aligning the budget with the pubic safety needs of Alaska is hard. What’s easy is to declare a war on crime and refuse to discuss the details of how to balance the need for public services and state revenue.