New VPSO starts work in Manokotak
Born in the Midwest, Manokotak's newest village public safety officer Bill Yates most recently hails from San Diego, Calif., where, when he was not working in security, he revved up the nearby desert on his 4-wheeler.
Part of a military family, both parents were in the Marines, Yates has a strong calling to public service.
"My parents were in the military so we basically moved around a lot, but I'd never been to Alaska," Yates said.
With his interest in law enforcement, Yates paid his way through the academy in California and certified with California POST - Peace Officer Standards and Training. He found his way to Southwestern Alaska through the recommendation of a fellow VPSO.
Although Yates is a certified peace officer, he will train this spring in Sitka with the Alaska Department of Public Safety.
"I will be going through 15 weeks of training beginning in February at the State Trooper Academy," Yates said. "I've been through six months of training previously, so hopefully it's easier than what I've been through; if not, I'll get through it."
Yates' previous training in California prepared him to carry a firearm and his previous job in security required it. Yates is well aware that when his training is complete in June, he will be one of the first VPSOs to carry a weapon in the state.
"Carrying a handgun is not a big deal to me," he said.
Yates' predecessor, Thomas Madole, was shot and killed on March 19, 2013, while responding in the line of duty. Madole's death prompted the state to revamp its rules regarding arming VPSOs throughout rural Alaska, allowing communities, which employ the safety officers, to choose what level of protection their employees carry.
In addition to a handgun, Yates will be equipped with a Taser, baton and pepper spray. He also has CPR and first-aid training.
Interested in expanding Manokotak's Department of Public Safety, Yates anticipates working closely with the Search and Rescue and Emergency Medical Services groups.
"I think the training that I have and the training that I will get will serve me well," he said. "I think that the training I had in California was a big plus in me getting hired for the job here.
"As a law enforcement officer, there is no better feeling than helping others out," Yates said from his experience in working in private security. "Law enforcement has always been my passion since forever. Helping the community is what I want to do."
Yates is excited to expand his riding repertoire to snowmachines.
"The equipment I have here includes a 4-wheeler, a snowmachine, the SUV and a skiff. It will take time getting used to the new equipment like the skiff," he said.
Even though he spent the last 10 years in Southern California, Yates counts his early years in his birthplace, Ohio, as preparation for cold-weather living.
Working in Alaska will undoubtedly present new challenges to Yates. One difference he has little experience with to date is transporting prisoners.
"We have a two-cell jail here in Manokotak that unless a prisoner is a Title 47, which means intoxicated beyond their capacity to take care of themselves and no one else will watch over them, a prisoner will be flown to Dillingham as soon as possible," he said. "In the event that a prisoner is held in Manokotak for an extended time, I can employ a local jail guard to watch a prisoner here."
The jail guard position is hired through the state troopers.
"Anyone interested can come in here and fill out an application and I'll forward it to the Troopers and they will notify me to add them to the list," Yates said.
Either Yates or an available state trooper will escort a prisoner to Dillingham.
In addition to his law enforcement duties, Yates hopes to work on community extension through safety programs like Kids Don't Float.
"I'm also interested in getting all the kids here wearing helmets when they are riding snowmachines and 4-wheelers," he said.
Yates says he is hoping to learn Yup'ik and he is determined to stay in Manokotak for his career.
"As much as possible, I want to be involved in this community and especially in the school. The kids are our future. If we don't make a positive impact on them now, they will go down their own path. I see myself interacting with the students in anything that I can. I can do coaching and maybe do some story-time reading or recess, gym time," Yates said.
Yates is interested in resurrecting the D.A.R.E. program, Drug Abuse Resistance Education, in Manokotak.
Employed since early December, Yates has learned the ropes with a field-training officer and worked in neighboring Koliganek and Aleknagik.
"I've noticed how nice the kids are here and look forward to working with everyone," Yates said. "Everyone is my boss here."