This report presents the methodology and findings of a study designed to determine the factors associated with high turnover rates among Alaska Village Public Safety Officers (VPSO).
The hypotheses for the study were divided into four larger classes of explanations. One class was related to VPSO pay, expenses, and housing. A second class of hypotheses was associated with officer stress, and a third set of hypotheses considered the effects of officers' view of their training and support. A fourth set of hypotheses addressed impacts of officers' heritage as an Alaskan Native upon tenure in the program. Data were obtained from samples of former and currently serving VPSOs through a mailed survey. A total of 52 surveys out of the 109 mailed were completed and returned by former VPSOs. A much higher response rate was achieved for currently serving officers. Findings show that none of the larger classes of explanations -- poor pay, officer stress, lack of support, or Alaska Native heritage -- provided a compelling explanation for the tremendous amount of turnover in the VPSO program. When moving from the larger categories of variables to individual relationships, there is an overarching explanation of VPSO turnover that argues that the officers who have connections to others and to life in an Alaska Native village are those who are least likely to leave the program. The relationship between officer turnover and the control variable that measured whether the officer was married is the first to provide support for the argument that higher levels of officer connection are associated with a decreased likelihood of VPSO turnover. The officers who were not married were much more likely to leave the program at any one time. The finding that VPSOs serving in villages where other police are present also lends credence to the idea that officers with strong connections to others in the village will be less likely to leave. 55 tables and the survey instrument
Date Published: March 1, 2000