Law Enforcement Careers in South Dakota

The incidence of crime in South Dakota has been climbing in recent years, according to FBI crime stats. Between 2018 and 2019, incidents of violent crime rose about 1.3%,

Although it’s a tragedy for crime victims and residents in the state, it does mean there are plenty of opportunities for individuals looking for meaningful careers in law enforcement in South Dakota.

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Jobs with the South Dakota Highway Patrol

Highway fatalities in South Dakota increased slightly in 2017, to 129, after having only 111 in 2016. Despite that, the state has one of the lowest five-year traffic fatality trends in the national according to the state Office of Highway Safety. The 189 sworn troopers of the South Dakota State Highway Patrol are largely responsible for this success.

In addition to enforcing traffic laws and assisting motorists, state troopers also work on intercepting shipments of drugs across the highways of South Dakota. This is a particular issue on Interstate 90, which is a favorite route for drug traffickers.

State troopers in South Dakota must be 21 years on or before their hire date. A high school diploma or GED is required, and applicants must have uncorrected 20/20 vision. The first step in applying to become a member of the South Dakota Highway Patrol is to take a written exam. The next step is an interview and physical assessment. Successful applicants undergo 24 weeks of academy training to become state troopers in South Dakota.

Jobs with Sheriff’s Departments in South Dakota

There are 66 counties in South Dakota, with a wide variety of terrain, populations, and demands on law enforcement officers and agencies. That means there are opportunities with sheriff’s departments requiring all types of police work in the state.

Lincoln County

The Lincoln County sheriff provides law enforcement services to several local communities as well as the unincorporated areas of Lincoln County, and staffs a school resource officer for several area high schools. The agency is also a member of the Sioux Falls Area Joint Fugitive Task Force.

Minnehaha County

The Minnehaha County Sheriff’s Office is adept at coordinating with multiple agencies and overlapping jurisdictions in the Sioux Falls area. With 5 sergeants and 32 deputies in that Patrol Division, the agency responds to some 20,000 calls annually.

Pennington County

The over 400 employees of the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office provide services to over 100,000 people in Pennington County. Sheriff’s deputy applicants in Pennington County must be 21 years old and have a high school diploma or GED.

Jobs with Municipal Police Departments in South Dakota

Anyone looking to become a police officer in South Dakota has a number of options available to them through the many municipal police departments in the state.

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Aberdeen is much safer than most other cities of its size. Part of this is due to the efforts of the 47 sworn officers of the Aberdeen police Department. Officers in Aberdeen must be 21 years old and have a high school diploma or GED.

Rapid City

The violent crime rate in Rapid City is one of the highest in the country, and 48 percent higher than other areas in South Dakota. To combat this, Rapid City has an internationally accredited police force that responded to over 119,000 calls for service in 2017. To be accepted with the Rapid City Police Department, applicants must be 21 years old and have either an associate degree or at least 64 hours of college credit or four years of law enforcement or full-time military experience.

Sioux Falls

The crime rate in Sioux Falls has been creeping up steadily since 2013. A more than 80 percent surge in violent crime in the metro area has left the Sioux Falls police department scrambling to respond. To join the department, applicants must be at least 21 years old at the time of taking the written exam. An associate degree or at least 60 semester hours of college is required, or two years of law enforcement or military experience.


Crime rates in Watertown tend to run below the U.S. average, a state of affairs that the Watertown Police Department deserves much credit for. Police officers in Watertown handle more than 20,000 calls for service per year. The first step in applying for a position in Watertown is to go through a civil service testing process. Applications are kept on file, and applicants are notified when a position becomes available.

South Dakota Law Enforcement Salaries

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), South Dakota’s law enforcement officers earned an average salary of $52,580 as of May 2021.

The following police/sheriff’s department salary data was sourced from May 2021 BLS stats (early career = 25th percentile, senior/late career = 90th percentile).

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Police Officer Salaries

The largest city in South Dakota doesn’t even break 200,000 in population, so you might not expect particularly high pay rates for metropolitan officers here. But, in fact, many South Dakota city police officers make salaries that are comparable to those available in much larger urban areas, pushing six figures in some cases.

Rapid City

  • Entry- $47,440
  • Senior – $63,960

Sioux Falls

  • Entry – $50,960
  • Senior – $81,850

Sheriff’s Deputy Salaries

Patrolling the bad lands and other rural areas of South Dakota is a challenge that requires both training and dedication. South Dakota’s sheriff’s offices ensure that their personnel are well-compensated for performing those challenging duties.

Minnehaha County Sheriff’s Office

  • Entry -$50,960
  • Senior – $81,850

Pennington County Sheriff’s Office

  • Entry -$47,440
  • Senior – $63,96

Brookings County Sheriff’s Department

  • Entry -$37,770
  • Senior -$64,610

State Trooper and State Police Salaries

The South Dakota Highway Patrol has somewhat lower pay scales than many other police agencies in the state, but the low cost of living affords many troopers good living standards in their primarily rural posts.

South Dakota Highway Patrol

  • Entry -$40,430
  • Senior – $76,010

2021 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary figures for police and sheriff’s patrol officers. Job growth projections from the US Department of Labor-sponsored resource, Projections Central. Figures are based on state data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed August 2022.

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