Despite pressure from Haines Borough officials, it’s not looking like the Department of Public Safety will fill Haines’ second trooper position any time soon.
Southeast Deputy Commander Lt. Rodney Dial said this week he “optimistically” hopes the position can be filled by fall. The state trooper position in Haines has been vacant for eight months, causing wildlife trooper Ken VanSpronsen to effectively work two jobs and spread himself thin.
In November, Mayor Stephanie Scott sent a letter to Deputy Commissioner Terry Vrabec and other high-ranking Department of Public Safety officials urging the position be filled as soon as possible. Without a state trooper, “there is a large void in emergency service protection for the residents of the Haines Borough,” Scott wrote.
Scott also met with Dial on Jan. 17 and spoke with Vrabec on Jan. 22 in an effort to press the issue. Scott reported to the assembly last week that Vrabec assured her filling the vacancy is a question of manpower, not funding, and that the department is currently grappling with 17 trooper vacancies statewide. The Haines position represents the only vacancy in Southeast.
In an interview with the CVN this week, Vrabec said “it’s going to be months” before Haines gets another trooper.
“We’re trying. It’s not that we’re forgetting about it. At least we do have help there; we can send people out of the Juneau area if there’s a crisis. But we do want to fill that spot,” Vrabec said.
Both Vrabec and Dial said a Department of Public Safety Academy class, which trains the new batch of troopers, will begin in February. After the 16-week class and several months of field training, troopers can apply for open positions that are out for bid, but Dial said any trooper who comes to Haines will likely be a seasoned trooper who is currently stationed elsewhere.
“They wouldn’t allow somebody from the academy to go into a post like that because it’s a small post and there’s not a lot of supervision. But it can free up more senior people to take those bids,” Dial said.