Keeping the Peace

Man in tan security uniform sits at the kitchen table inside his home.

For a quarter of a century, Dan Harrelson has served as the lone peace officer for his home community of White Mountain: population 200.

Since most villages are too small to support a full time police officer or trooper, Village Public Safety Officers (VPSOs) are the first responders in many remote communities in Western Alaska. As such, they hold great responsibility. VPSOs mediate disputes, provide basic law enforcement, and respond to emergencies.

As part of a feature on law enforcement in remote Western Alaska, volunteer news reporter Gabe Colombo interviewed and shadowed Dan for a day in White Mountain, located 77 miles southeast of Nome. Dan had lunch with students at the school, checked on construction of the new store, and helped a youngster get his kittycat snowmachine to fuel. Dan enforces the 10 p.m. winter curfew, relays tips about illegal marijuana shipments to the Western Alaska Narcotics Team, and coordinates search-and-rescue efforts.

Dan’s positive attitude and easygoing personality have served his home village well for 25 years. Thank you for bringing his story to the airwaves!

Image at top: White Mountain VPSO Dan Harrelson, inside his home at Christmastime. Photo: Gabe Colombo, KNOM.

Dan Harrelson assists a child riding a small snowmachine (snowmobile).

VPSO Dan Harrelson gets a small snowmachine ready for towing. Photo: Gabe Colombo, KNOM.

Dan Harrelson stands inside a large garage, looking at an assortment of large vehicles in front of him, including a fire truck and several all-terrain vehicles.

Dan with emergency response equipment and vehicles in the village’s new Public Safety Building, for which he helped spearhead funding and construction. Photo: Gabe Colombo, KNOM.

1 Comment

  1. Joe Keefe on February 2, 2018 at 4:31 pm

    A very revealing story “Gras roots” public safety strategy. Talk about “neighborhood policing.’
    This approach should be recognized nationally.

    Joe Keefe Natick, MA