South Dakota Highway Patrol History
Under the direction of 19 governors and 15 superintendents over many decades, the men and women of the South Dakota Highway Patrol moved from a reactive organization to a proactive group of officers who anticipate changes in highway safety and enforcement techniques.
1935-1936: The Courtesy Patrol
In 1935, the Governor of South Dakota, Tom Berry, recognized the need for an organization to enforce traffic laws and provide assistance to the motoring public. Governor Berry appointed ten men known as the "Courtesy Patrol" to enforce all the laws in South Dakota and inform the public about the states emerging traffic regulations. Each man was given a car, affectionately called a "milk wagon," a tow chain, a first aid kit and a gallon of gasoline. The new officers were assigned to patrol 2,000 miles of hard surfaced roads and 4,000 miles of gravel highways. The patrol cars were not equipped with radios for communication, and each officer made occasional telephone calls at filling stations to see if they were needed for an investigation or emergency.
1937-1955: Founding the Motor Patrol
In 1937, the Courtesy Patrol was disbanded, and the new Motor Patrol was founded. The number of Patrolmen increased from eight to 40, and two-way radios were added to each patrol car. The Patrol was involved in many life-saving efforts during the record blizzard of 1949.
1956-1960: A Changing Highway System
A $40 million 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.
1961-1973: Responding to Nature’s Demands
The Highway Patrol continued to grow to meet the demands caused by natural disasters, traffic and motor carrier enforcement, stopping traffic deaths and violence from strikes. The ranks of sergeant and lieutenant were added, along with four-door patrol cars with air conditioning, the operations manual, recruit training and in-service schools, and a firearms qualification program. Over 100 inches of snow blanketed South Dakota in 1969. The Patrol was heavily involved in rescues, relays and security work during the winter months and the flooding conditions that followed.
1974-2003: Expansion & Innovation
In 1974, militant groups caused the Patrol to form the Initial Response Unit (now called SWAT). An additional 75 men and women were authorized to be hired and trained. Over the following decades, the Highway Patrol’s technological capabilities expanded greatly to meet the Division’s goals of crash reduction and service to the citizens of the State of South Dakota.
Today and Tomorrow
The Highway Patrol is currently under the direction of Colonel Rick Miller, who was appointed in 2019 by Governor Kristi Noem. The Patrol has matured into a professional law enforcement agency prepared to respond to the ever-changing needs of the public it serves. The 197 members of the Highway Patrol wear the uniform and badge with pride and distinction.
South Dakota Highway Patrol Superintendents
1937-1956: Walter J. Goetz
1956-1959: Jasper J. Kibbe
1959-1961: Ken Balogh
1961-1965: Cullen P. With
1965-1967: Ted Arndt
1967-1974: Captain Delton Schultz
1974-1979: Colonel Dennis Eisnach
1979-1987: Jerry Baum
1987-1995: Colonel Jim Jones
1995-2000: Gene G. Abdallah
2000-2003: Colonel Thomas A. Dravland
2003-2010: Colonel Daniel C. Mosteller
2010-2019: Colonel Craig Price
2019-Current: Colonel Rick Miller