Public Safety Frequently Asked Questions

The Department of Public Safety is addressing these important issues to improve service to Alaskans.

What is the largest issue facing the Department of Public Safety?

Our most pressing problem is staffing. Not having an adequate amount of personnel restricts our ability to effectively deal with issues in an adequate time frame. Requests for service frequently stack up causing frustration and anxiety for everyone involved. The staffing shortage is across all DPS divisions including AST, AWT, Fire Prevention and the Crime Lab. Being short handed also leads to personnel feeling overworked and unproductive. The hectic pace drives valued employees to seek out other employment opportunities or they take an early retirement. This only perpetuates the staffing shortage. Operating understaffed limits our ability to institute proactive safety measures and often forces us to be only reactive.

How are AST and AWT increasing recruitment success?

Streamlining the recruitment process and ensuring our department is an attractive employer is a primary focus of DPS. Our recruitment office has submitted a number of helpful changes to the hiring process that AST and AWT are currently implementing. Increasing the number of recruitment cycles, improving communication and notifications sent to recruits and providing open lateral hire to out-of-state applicants will bolster our success in recruiting and retaining quality applicants. DPS is also working toward expanding our recruiting efforts in the lower 48 states and automatically disqualifying applicants who do not meet minimum qualifications. (This helps to preserve our hiring resources). In order to be fully staffed, we must also focus our efforts toward retention of current troopers. DPS is developing trooper satisfaction surveys to find out how we can better serve our troopers. We are also doing more to assist troopers in adjusting to new communities following transfers.

What is DPS doing to about rural justice needs?

The conditions in rural Alaska pose unique challenges for law enforcement. The Department of Public Safety has made strides to address the main issues: illegal alcohol importation and extremely high rates of sexual assault and sexual abuse. In 2004, DPS added seven new trooper positions in Western Alaska, bringing our total number of commissioned positions for rural Alaska to 52. In an ongoing effort to curb boot legging, the state recently passed legislation to encourage the voters of Bethel and Kotzebue to allow alcohol distribution centers in their communities and require the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board to set up a database to track alcohol shipments to the bush. Troopers and Village Public Safety Officers are always reliant on the local communities for leads on illegal activities.

How is the Department addressing Alaska’s high sexual assault and abuse rate?

The state of Alaska suffers the highest rate of forcible rape in the nation. DPS is addressing this from a variety of angles. We are leading and sponsoring the training, funding and equipment needed for SARTs (Sexual Assault Response Teams). The DNA database and program are expanding with increased collection of samples and new forensic technician positions in the crime lab. We have increased our trooper training requirements for handling and investigating these crimes. A pilot training project is underway for VPSOs, health aides and behavioral health aides who are often the first responders to many sex crimes. In addition, DPS is developing a sex crimes field guide to further assist troopers in conducting successful investigations. We have also partnered with the Office of Children’s Services in order to work in tandem with other agencies. We’ve also partnered with the University of Alaska’s Justice Center to conduct a trend analysis on our sexual assault and stalking cases. While working to lower the occurrence of sexual violence and evaluate our own response and actions, DPS also recognizes the need for the local communities, tribal entities and other state and public health agencies to join us in the fight against these crimes.

What is the Department doing to improve highway safety?

DPS has been using federal highway safety funds to run cautionary DUI and seatbelt ad campaigns, offer overtime for troopers to provide traffic enforcement and enact special DUI enforcement teams. In the last year, the department partnered with other state agencies to institute two Highway Safety Corridors Seward and Parks highways). Highway Safety Corridors are roadways identified as high risk for collisions, speeding and other dangers. In an effort to decrease those risks, these highways now have increased patrol units and double fines for violations. The safety corridors are a long-term project we continue to work on. In addition to these projects, DPS recognizes the additional need for enforcement during the annual Alaska State Fair and all major holidays; extra troopers are added to increase enforcement during these events.

What changes will we see with the separation of brown shirts and blue shirts?

The transition to separating the brown shirts from the blue shirts is going relatively smoothly and the two colonels are working together to ensure a positive outcome. Public safety continues to be paramount and crimes against persons will still be the priority. If a trooper sees a crime, witnesses suspicious activity or receives a call to respond to an emergency, that trooper is required to act accordingly regardless of their division. However, Alaska’s most valuable renewable resources are its fish and wildlife. It is imperative that DPS has Alaska Wildlife Trooper to protect our natural resources.

How is the Department of Public Safety meeting the growing need for crime laboratory services?

As the only nationally accredited full service forensic science laboratory in the state of Alaska, the Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory continues to increase its support to all law enforcement agencies throughout the state. With the passage of HB90, the laboratory will be expanding entries into the combined DNA index system (CODIS) to include samples from those individuals arrested for qualifying charges. This will greatly increase the prospects of solving previously unsolved crimes. In addition, the laboratory has provided crime scene technicians stationed outside the city of Anchorage to provide more rapid response for evidence development and collection. This combined with a commitment to provide continuing education (training) ensures that the needs of law enforcement agencies for excellence in forensic scientific analysis are met.