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How to Become a Police Officer in South Dakota

South Dakota is a great place for an aspiring cop to begin a career. More than 1,700 law enforcement officers serve the state’s population of roughly 850,000.1,2 The state’s low cost of living (5% lower than the national average) and competitively low unemployment rate (3.1%) can make it an appealing place for officers to call home.2 While every police department in South Dakota has its own standards and requirements for officers, there are some statewide requirements that all cops in the state must meet. Learn more about requirements for police officers in South Dakota below.

South Dakota Police Officer Requirements

The South Dakota Law Enforcement Officers Standards and Training Commission certifies all law enforcement officers in the state and houses the law enforcement basic certification course for all South Dakota cops. The department is also responsible for the licensing of polygraph examiners, tracking continuing education requirements for certified law enforcement officers, and coordinating advanced training courses.

To become a law enforcement officer in South Dakota, candidates must:

  • Be at least 21 years of age
  • Be a US citizen
  • Have a high school diploma or GED
  • Not have illegally used any controlled substances, marijuana, or prescribed drugs within the past year
  • Not have been decertified as an officer from any other state through revocation, suspension, resignation or dismissal

Required Exams

Candidates for law enforcement positions in South Dakota must undergo a physical exam by a licensed physician to ensure that he or she is in good physical condition. Candidates must also complete a formal interview with the hiring department. While not required by state law, many police departments have also adopted physical abilities tests as well as written exams designed to test reading comprehension and logic. Successful police recruits must complete a formal training program at the police academy. To maintain certification, cops in South Dakota must complete 40 hours of training every two years.

“Real strength can only be achieved if you have the respect of the citizens you serve. Having weapons and might is a fa├žade. Be firm but fair as you deal with the citizens you serve. They are your masters.” – Paul Huebl, author of the Crime, Guns, and Videotape blog and former Chicago Police Officer

South Dakota State Patrol Requirements

The South Dakota Highway Patrol (SDHP) employs over 180 sworn officers.3 Units in the SDHP include the police service dog unit, aircraft patrol unit, emergency support vehicles, and emergency communications unit. Potential cops looking to join the South Dakota Highway Patrol as state troopers must meet state guidelines and:

  • Have visual acuity of 20/20 binocular vision (corrected) and normal color, depth perception, and field of view
  • Have normal hearing in both ears
  • Have no felony convictions
  • Be willing to be stationed in any county in South Dakota and able to report to duty 24 hours a day

Prospective SDHP troopers must pass a competitive physical agility test with benchmarks set by age group as well as a written exam. The agency offers competitive salaries and frequently extends hiring incentives to police who are already certified or are eligible for reciprocity through an approved education and training program.

South Dakota Sheriff Deputy Requirements

Sheriffs in South Dakota help ensure public safety in the state’s 66 counties. Sheriffs are typically elected officials and hire sheriff’s deputies in order to help carry out the duties of the office. Statewide, the average salary for sheriff’s deputies in South Dakota was $38,283 as of 2015.4 Sheriff’s deputies must meet state minimum requirements for law enforcement officers as well as any prerequisites for the hiring department.

Minnehaha County

Minnehaha County is the most populous county in South Dakota with over 183,000 residents and relies on the Minnehaha County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) to provide rural patrol and countywide corrections services.5 Approximately 37 deputy sheriffs work for the department’s patrol division.5 Prospective Minnehaha County sheriff’s deputies must satisfy state minimums for law enforcement officers plus any prerequisites posted during an open recruiting period.

Pennington County

The Pennington County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) provides county law enforcement services for South Dakota’s second-largest county with over 372 sworn and civilian employees.6 PCSO deputy sheriffs make between $42,307 to $45,572 annually.6 To join the PCSO as a deputy, candidates must meet state minimums and either have a valid South Dakota driver’s license or obtain one within 90 days of moving to the state.

Police Departments in South Dakota

Police officers in South Dakota earn an average salary of $47,800 annually.1 While all cops must meet the minimum requirements set forth by the South Dakota Law Enforcement Officers Standards and Training Commission, each police department may have different criteria that prospective officers must meet.

Sioux Falls

The Sioux Falls Police Department (SFPD) regularly hires full-time police officers. The department has three divisions: administrative services, investigative services, and uniformed services. Aside from meeting state minimums for sworn officers, SFPD law enforcement hopefuls must:

  • Be at least 21 years of age but not more than 44 years of age
  • Pass the city’s civil service written exam, which is held monthly
  • Have an associates degree or 60 credit hours from an accredited college or university, or two years of law enforcement experience, or two years of active military experience, or any combination of education, experience and training (approved by the hiring authority)
  • Have no convictions of any crimes punishable by imprisonment
  • Possess a valid driver’s license
  • Have a visual acuity of 20/40 (corrected) and be able to distinguish between red, green and amber
  • Have hearing abilities to hear a forced whisper at five feet without the use of a hearing aid

Police officers in Sioux Falls earn a starting wage of $24.85 to $28.73 per hour.7

Rapid City

The Rapid City Police Department (RCPD) periodically recruits new officers. The RCPD employs over 160 sworn officers and civilian employees.8 Possible areas of work include traffic enforcement, crash investigation, criminal investigation, street crimes unit, forensic laboratory, and the special response team. To join the RCPD, future cops must satisfy state minimums and have one of the following:

  • An associate degree or no fewer than 64 credit hours from an accredited academic institution OR
  • Four years of certified law enforcement experience OR
  • Four years of active, full-time military experience OR
  • An equivalent combination of education and experience

After applying, qualified candidates will be invited to take a written test and a physical fitness test, followed by an oral interview. Top candidates will be invited to police academy training after passing a background check and medical and psychological exams.

Police Training Academies in South Dakota

South Dakota has one basic training academy, the George S. Mickelson Criminal Justice Center administered by the state’s Division of Criminal Investigation. Located in Pierre, South Dakota, basic training for most officers is a 13-week, 520-hour course. Basic training will teach recruits police practices and procedure, human behavior, firearms proficiency, emergency vehicle operations, use of force and defensive tactics.

The SD Law Enforcement Training Academy also has reciprocal agreements with the following colleges:

  • Western Dakota Technical Institute – Rapid City, SD
  • Southeast Technical Institute – Sioux Falls, SD
  • Lake Area Technical Institute – Watertown, SD

Completing the approved law enforcement program at one of these institutions may exempt prospective officers from the basic certification course, though students will typically need to take advanced training. To learn more about police training in South Dakota, visit the South Dakota Law Enforcement Training website.

South Dakota Police Jobs Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there are currently 1,750 cops in South Dakota.1 The average annual salary for South Dakota police and patrol officers is $47,800.1 It is projected that by 2026, that workforce will increase by 3.2% with 130 projected annual job openings.9 With many cities and counties actively recruiting, South Dakota is a great place for an aspiring cop to begin his or her career. As always, the number of new law enforcement officers hired depends on the city or county’s budget and priorities.

To search law enforcement jobs in South Dakota, check out our police jobs board.

Police and Sheriff Patrol Officer Salary in South Dakota

CityNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Rapid City310$49,190
Sioux Falls430$59,800

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of March 2018.1

References:
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, State and Occupational Employment and Wages Estimates, South Dakota: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_sd.htm
2. Sperling’s Best Places, South Dakota: https://www.bestplaces.net/state/south_dakota
3. South Dakota Department of Public Safety, South Dakota Highway Patrol: https://dps.sd.gov/safety-enforcement/highway-patrol/history
4. South Dakota Attorney General Sheriff Management Study: https://atg.sd.gov/docs/SheriffManagementStudy2015.pdf
5. Minnehaha County Sheriff’s Office: http://www.minnehahasheriff.org/
6. Pennington County Sheriff’s Office: https://www.pennco.org/sheriff/
7. Sioux Falls Police Department: http://www.siouxfalls.org/police
8. Rapid City Police Department: https://www.rcgov.org/departments/police-department/about-the-police-dept.html
9. Projections Central: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm