The beginning of the Shaktoolik coastal berm. Photo: Anna Rose MacArthur.

Travis Savetilik stepped into the role of Shaktoolik’s Village Public Safety Officer on July 12. He graduated from the Alaska Law Enforcement Training program in Sitka a month earlier, the Alaska Department of Public Safety announced in a press release.

The 16-week training program consists of more than a thousand hours of training in police procedures, criminal justice and first aid, among other topics. Savetilik also completed two weeks of rural fire training.

VPSOs provide a broad range of services to their communities, according to the Alaska DPS. Not only do they act as first responders in emergency situations, they also work to educate their communities about public safety and disaster preparedness. While needs vary from community to community, the most important service most VPSOs provide is law enforcement, Kawerak VPSO Director Gina Appolloni said.

Once they are through training, VPSOs choose their own assignments. This can be a lengthy process involving interviews with community members. This increases VPSO job satisfaction and fosters stronger bonds between the VPSO and the community, Appolloni said. Savetilik chose to serve in Shaktoolik, his home community.

Alaska Law Enforcement Training Spring 2021 graduating class. Image by Alaska Department of Public Safety.

Appolloni praised Anna Adams, Savetilik’s significant other, for the support she offered while Savetilik was away at the Public Safety Training Academy. Appolloni emphasized that the support of friends and loved ones makes a real difference for those training to become VPSOs.

Of 15 VPSO positions that Kawerak manages, eight remain vacant. Kawerak currently has three prospective VPSO recruits, Appolloni said, though none have enrolled in the fall training session.

Image at top: The toolboxes have resources for various environmental problems including coastal erosion. Photo: Anna Rose MacArthur.