Togiak VPSO singled out for honors

Posted: Monday, October 16, 2000

DILLINGHAM (AP) -- Unarmed, Stanley Active has faced a pistol pointed at his head, wrestled shotguns from drunks and guarded a homicide scene for three days until the Alaska State Troopers could respond.

Active has served as Togiak's lawman for the past 24 years, first as village police officer and for the past two decades as Village Public Safety Officer.

Active was honored earlier this month at the Bristol Bay Native Association's board meeting for his extraordinary service.

Only one other VPSO, Walter Brown of Eek, has served as long in Alaska.

Active became a VPSO at the urging of his mother, Mary.

''My mom told me, in Yup'ik, to take care of our people, and I made a commitment on her words,'' Active told the Bristol Bay Times.

Active was named VPSO of the Year in 1992 for his work to establish a local-option law banning the sale and importation of alcohol in Togiak.

The Village Public Safety Officer program was begun by the state Department of Public Safety in 1980 to train local people to be first responders in small villages to any kind of public safety crisis, including crimes, fires and other disasters.

The job has been especially difficult for the only lawman in Togiak.

Active said the hardest part is having to arrest his own relatives on occasion, but he usually calls on troopers to deal with those situations.

Even when he's off duty, Active still is regarded as the law.

''All eyes are on you in a small community like Togiak,'' he said. ''You can't do anything wrong.''

The longevity of Active and Brown is the exception to what usually is a short-term career, according to a study published last spring by the University of Alaska Anchorage's Justice Center.

Assistant professor Darryl Wood wrote that the turnover rate for the VPSO program was 40 percent in 1997, and that VPSOs stay employed in the program an average of less than two years.

The study cites low pay, stress and isolation as chief factors in the high turnover rate.

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