Continuing the courtesy patrol’s legacy
Eighty-three years ago, Gov. Tom Berry appointed South Dakota’s first patrolmen to enforce traffic laws and provide assistance to the public. Gov. Berry assigned ten men to what was then called the “Courtesy Patrol.” Each was given a car called a “milk wagon,” a tow chain, a first aid kit and a gallon of gasoline. The new officers were assigned to patrol the 2,000 miles of hard-surfaced roads and 4,000 miles of gravel highways.
Since the day Gov. Berry appointed those ten men, the South Dakota Highway Patrol has developed from a reactive organization to a proactive group of men and women that anticipates changes in highway safety and enforcement techniques. The Patrol has matured into a professional law enforcement agency prepared to respond to the needs of the public it serves.
This coming week 12 new recruits will officially join South Dakota’s Highway Patrol and continue the legacy of the original ten. Class 60 is made up of nine men and three women, and we will celebrate their completion of recruit academy and field training at a ceremony in the Rotunda of the Capitol Building.
Our graduates put in a lot of hard work to make it through training. They completed 13 weeks of law enforcement basic training, 10 weeks in Highway Patrol Academy and 10 weeks of field training. They endured rigorous physical training and their work in the classroom included memorization of laws, radio codes, policies and procedures. They received the latest instructions about firearms, defensive tactics, vehicle stops, search and seizure, accident investigation, DUI enforcement and motor carrier enforcement. Then they took that new knowledge and skills to the field and did exceedingly well with all of the challenges presented to them.
It’s easy for us to take our way of life for granted. There are many places around the world where chaos is the norm. In these places, lawlessness prevails and people live in fear, facing daily uncertainty over whether they’ll be able to protect themselves and their families. The difference between those places and the place we call home boils down to law enforcement.
Without enforcement, laws are useless and democracies collapse. So while our new recruits will be investigating crimes, keeping our highways safe, and protecting property, they will also be preserving our free society. They, along with the rest of the men and women who serve in law enforcement roles, deserve much credit for our way of life.