Highway Patrol PSD Unit
The South Dakota Highway Patrol's Police Service Dog (PSD) Unit is an indispensable asset to the crime fighting efforts of all South Dakota law enforcement agencies. Formed in 1991, this Unit has grown to 12 teams and is responsible for intercepting millions of dollars worth of illegal drugs, confiscating millions in currency, weapons and vehicles, tracking individuals and locating key pieces of evidence.
The dogs are primarily Belgian Malinois. Each is paired with a designated handler, working and training in:
- Narcotics detection
- Explosive detection
- Criminal apprehension
- Evidence recovery
PSD Training & Specializations
Narcotics Detection Dogs
Narcotics Detection Dog Teams complete approximately seven weeks of initial training, then work to seek out drug couriers, assist local law enforcement agencies, search for illegal drugs in schools, sniff suspicious packages through the mail and help in educating others about the dangers of drug use.
Upon completing approximately seven weeks of Detection School training, Patrol Dog Teams attend an additional six weeks of training. In addition to drug detection, these dogs are trained in tracking and criminal apprehension and are used as an alternative to placing Troopers in unusually dangerous situations.
Explosive Detection Dogs
Explosive Detection Teams attend eight weeks of initial training, learning to find the odor of a variety of components that could be assembled into any type of bomb. This team responds to bomb threats and provides protective sweeps of the State Capitol and other State buildings in Pierre, along with sweeps prior to special events or the visit of dignitaries.
PSD Unit Teams
All dogs in the PSD Unit live at home with their handler and become part of the handler’s family, but they must be ready to go to work at a moment's notice. As the dogs become accustomed to the rigors of law enforcement work, they look forward to the challenges presented to them each day.
Lieutenant Matt Oxner & Koda
Lieutenant Oxner has been with the Highway Patrol since 2000. His second PSD partner was Keya, a yellow lab rescued from the Sioux Falls pound. Today he works with Koda, a Belgian Malinois. The team completed their training in 2010 and patrol together in the Rapid City area.
Sergeant Chris Koltz & Blitz
Sergeant Koltz joined the Highway Patrol in 1997 and became a PSD handler in 1999. Blitz, a male Belgian Malinois, is Sergeant Koltz’s current and fourth PSD partner trained in the odor detection of illegal drugs, patrol and tracking. When off duty, Blitz enjoys being a member of the Koltz family.
Sergeant John Lord & Aros
Sergeant John Lord started with the South Dakota Highway Patrol in 1999 and completed his initial training with Aros, a Belgian Malinois, in November 2009. They work out of the Mitchell squad. Aros is an extremely active dog and is is always on task and ready to hunt for drugs.
Sergeant Brian Swets & Rocko
Sergeant Swets joined the Highway Patrol in 1997 and was selected to become a PSD handler in 1999. In May 2010, Trooper Swets began his training with his third and current PSD partner Rocko, a Dutch Shepherd. Rocko is certified in narcotics detection, tracking, evidence recovery, and criminal apprehension.
Trooper Trent Heuertz & Zeke
Trooper Trent Heuertz began his career with the South Dakota Highway Patrol in 2001. In 2009, he was chosen to be a part of the PSD Unit. Zeke is a Belgian Malinois, and together they’re a certified narcotics detection team responsible for interdicting illegal drugs in commercial vehicles.
Trooper Dennis Mez & Brix
Trooper Dennis Mez began his career with the South Dakota Highway Patrol in 2003. In 2009, he was selected to become a PSD handler and started training with his PSD partner Brix. The team is assigned to the Motor Carrier Division of the Highway Patrol for commercial motor vehicle criminal interdiction.
Trooper Deanna Johnson & Dina
Trooper Johnson was hired in 2009 and became a PSD handler in 2011 for the Vermillion squad. Trooper Johnson and her PSD partner Dina, a Belgian Malinois, work Interdiction on the state’s local highways. Dina lives at Trooper Johnson’s home with her family, and her favorite toy is the garden hose.
Trooper Austin Schmitz & Lennart
Originally stationed in Brookings, Trooper Schmitz was hired in 2009 and joined the PSD Unit in 2011. He and his partner Lennart, a 90-pound Dutch Shepard, work criminal interdiction in and near the Pierre area. Lennart loves to play tug-of-war and sprints to the car and leaps into his kennel at any time of day.
Trooper Denver Kvistad & Ryker
Trooper Kvistad began his career with the South Dakota Highway Patrol in 2010. In 2013, he was selected to be a part of the Police Service Dog East Unit. Trooper Kvistad and PSD Ryker are stationed in eastern South Dakota. Ryker is a Belgian Malinois trained and certified in the detection of narcotics and marijuana. He loves to go to work every day and is a hard working dog with intense drive.
Trooper Andrew Steen & Thor
Trooper Steen began his career with the South Dakota Highway Patrol in 2004. In 2016, he was chosen to be a part of the PSD Unit. Trooper Steen’s partner is Thor, a German Shepard trained in the detection of the odors of illegal drugs. Together they interdict criminals on the state’s highway system.
Trooper Michael Dale & Raica
Trooper Dale joined the Highway Patrol in 2009. In 2012 he joined the PSD Unit and met his partner Raica. Raica is a Belgian Malinois certified in explosives detection and apprehension and tracking training. The team was stationed in Pierre for five years and now is currently stationed in Rapid City.
Trooper Aaron Spangenberg & Sadie
Trooper Spangenberg was hired in 2011 and joined the PSD Unit in 2017. His partner, Sadie, a Belgian Malinois, is certified in explosives detection and apprehension and tracking training. The team is stationed in Pierre.