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Police Turnover in Isolated Communities: The Alaska Experience

NCJ Number
National Institute of Justice Journal Dated: January 2001 Pages: 16-23
Date Published
January 2001
8 pages
Publication Series
This article presents findings from a study of factors related to officer turnover in the Alaska Village Public Safety Officer (VPSO) program.
Data for this study came primarily from Alaska Department of Public Safety records for 1978 through 1999 and self-administered surveys from 113 (of a possible 184) current and former VPSO's who served between 1994 and 1998. The VPSO program is a prime example of a community policing program: (1) policing authority is decentralized at the community level; (2) VPSO's are encouraged to use problem solving techniques; (3) the generalist policing role stresses the complexities of public safety and social order to address all causes of disorder and threats to welfare; and (4) participation of the community is built into the program's organizational structure. However, the program has had an annual average turnover rate of 55 percent, roughly 10 times greater than urban police departments across the country. Possible explanations for officer turnover include job stress, dissatisfaction with salary and benefits, difficulties associated with applying non-Native policing arrangements in Native communities using Native employees, and sociodemographic characteristics such as age and marital status. Officers are more likely to stay in the program if they are grounded in the Alaska Native culture, serve in their home villages, serve with other police officers (either village police officers or tribal police), and are married. Suggested ways police administrators can reduce the turnover rates in their departments include hiring locally, hiring culturally, strengthening ties to the community, and strengthening ties to the police culture. Figure, notes

Date Published: January 1, 2001