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South Dakota Highway Patrol

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South Dakota Highway Patrol
Patch of South Dakota Highway Patrol
Patch of South Dakota Highway Patrol
Agency overview
Formed1956; 66 years ago (1956)
Preceding agencies
  • Courtesy Patrol (1935-1937)
  • Motor Patrol (1937-1956)
Employees269 (as of 2017) [1]
Jurisdictional structure
Operations jurisdictionSouth Dakota, USA
Size77,116 square miles (199,730 km2)
Population895,376 (2022 est.)[2]
General nature
Operational structure
HeadquartersPierre, South Dakota
Troopers189 (as of 2017)
Civilians80 (as of 2014) [3]
Agency executive
Parent agencySouth Dakota Department of Public Safety
South Dakota Highway Patrol website

The South Dakota Highway Patrol is the state police agency for South Dakota, which has jurisdiction everywhere in the state except for sovereign Native American reservations. It was created to protect the lives, property and constitutional rights of people in South Dakota. In addition to enforcement of laws, the SDHP has regional SWAT teams that provide tactical and warrant services to police and Sheriff Departments. The SDHP is also responsible for training K-9 teams to law enforcement agencies in South Dakota. The SDHP also has a division responsible for executive protection of the state dignitaries and protection of the capital grounds and administrative state buildings and grounds. There are currently 201 members (i.e., state troopers) of the South Dakota Highway Patrol.


Troopers with the South Dakota Highway Patrol are entrusted with the authority to conduct investigations concerning violations of criminal and traffic statutes throughout the state, regardless of city, township, or county boundaries.

Including traffic enforcement, in communities that already have a police presence, the South Dakota Highway Patrol may respond to citizen calls. The South Dakota Highway Patrol has statewide jurisdiction, and frequently assists other agencies with emergency calls for service ranging from accidents, criminal investigations to fights in progress. As a mission of the South Dakota Highway Patrol, they will preserve peace and order.

Headquarters staff are based out of Pierre. A Motor Carrier Division is also headquartered in Pierre.


In 1935, the Governor of South Dakota, Tom Berry, recognized the need for an organization to enforce the traffic laws and provide assistance to the motoring public. Governor Berry appointed ten men that were known as the "Courtesy Patrol", tasked with enforcing all the laws in South Dakota and helping to inform the public about the state's emerging traffic regulations. The officers were assigned to patrol the 2,000 miles (3,200 km) of hard-surfaced roads and 4,000 miles (6,400 km) of gravel highways.[4]

The legislature abolished the Department of Justice in 1937 and the authority for the Highway Patrol was transferred to the Highway Department. The Courtesy Patrol was disbanded and the new Motor Patrol was founded, with Superintendent Walter J. Goetz. Chief Goetz increased the number of Motor Patrolmen from eight to forty and his tenure is most noted for the acquisition of two-way radios for each patrol car in 1948.

The Patrol was involved in many life-saving efforts during the record blizzard of 1949. The blizzards and floods of 1952 taxed the resources of the Motor Patrol. 1953 ushered in the South Dakota Drivers License and 179 people died on South Dakota roads.

A 40 million dollar highway construction project began in 1956 and the role of the Motor Patrolman as an enforcement officer began to change. Traffic fatalities were on the rise and the Patrol was given a mandate to reduce fatal accidents.

1958 saw the Oahe Dam closure completed and a record 240 people died on South Dakota roads. By executive order, various colored and unmarked patrol vehicles were utilized for a time to help reduce the death toll from traffic accidents. The port of entry system was started on a trial basis.

A SWAT division was established in 1974.[4]

Fallen officers

Since the establishment of the South Dakota Highway Patrol, 5 officers have died in the line of duty.[5]

Officer Date of Death Details
Patrolman Bernard Benson
Wednesday, September 17, 1941
Automobile accident
Trooper Henry N. Russell
Wednesday, November 19, 1958
Automobile accident
Trooper Verlyn Lamonte Mettler
Tuesday, March 9, 1976
Trooper Steven Eric Hoffman
Wednesday, March 12, 1980
Struck by vehicle
Trooper Oren Stuart Hindman
Thursday, May 2, 1985

Source: "South Dakota Highway Patrol", Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, (2022, November 30th),

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  1. ^ USDOJ Bureau of Justice Statistics Census of Law Enforcement Agencies Archived 2008-11-20 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Population for the United States..." United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-08-22.
  3. ^ USDOJ Bureau of Justice Statistics Census of Law Enforcement Agencies Archived 2008-11-20 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ a b "South Dakota Highway Patrol History | SD DPS".
  5. ^ South Dakota Highway Patrol Call to Honor Page
External links

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