PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Back in 2013, when then-Colonel Craig Price was the top officer for the South Dakota Highway Patrol, he chose Rick Miller to be the patrol’s major in charge of administration.
Now that Price has risen again, this time to secretary of public safety in Governor Kristi Noem’s new administration, he again has recommended Miller — this time, to leading the patrol that he had led.
Miller officially takes office as the new colonel Friday during a ceremony in the state Capitol rotunda.
His promotion comes with additional responsibility.
The Legislature gave the governor four new positions in the Highway Patrol. Miller said they will focus on enforcing South Dakota’s laws against the addictive drug known as meth.
“Ultimately the goal is to let everyone know the state of South Dakota is serious on methamphetamine,” he said in a KELOLAND interview Tuesday. “Getting rid of it, making sure that it no longer damages lives and infects our state.”
Miller served six years in the U.S. Marine Corps and more than 17 years in the Highway Patrol. As an active Marine, he trained dogs in detecting explosives and drugs. His second assignment with the patrol likewise involved a drug-detection dog.
The patrol currently has 11 K-9 units focusing on drugs and one on explosives.
As administrative superintendent, he handled training, budget, hiring and human resources.
“I want to continue in hiring the right people, Law enforcement has changed over the years, and anybody in law enforcement will tell you that. Hiring the right people is getting tougher and tougher,” he said.
“You don’t have the people who get out of school or the military that say, ‘I want a career in law enforcement.’ Those people are harder and harder to find. I think it’s important to continue to find the right people and get them, those men and women, to stay with the agency.,
“Whether it’s a generational thing, they come to the Highway Patrol and stay for just a short time and move on to bigger and better. We want to try keeping those people employed and stay with us as long as possible.
“So I think hiring is a big goal I as well as my staff have.”
He plans to continue emphasizing that the patrol’s troopers be models for good behavior on the highways and in educating the public about safe driving habits.
The patrol’s 279 personnel include motor-carrier enforcement officers.
“It’s important for people to know that over time trucks can damage roadways, and those semis and large vehicles — they’re a lot larger and when they’re involved in crashes do a lot more damage, so we’ve got to ensure that they’re driving down the road safe, so there are safe drivers in them,” Miller said.
As Miller was promoted in May, the patrol’s other major, Dana Svendsen, who was in charge of enforcement, retired. That means Miller quickly has two assistant superintendent positions to fill in the days ahead.
“With any organization, Highway Patrol included, having the right people in the right positions is very important. And it really sets the tone for the agency, where we go throughout the years, the operational tempo and getting things done with great people,” Miller said.
His first duty station with the patrol was in Custer. He moved on to Rapid City where he worked as a police dog handler, until the dog retired. and he was promoted. He’s been in Pierre about six years.
“I think it’s an honor to lead the agency, especially in the state of South Dakota. Law enforcement is very, very fortunate in South Dakota to have the support of the community,” Miller said.
“I think I go to conferences with other law enforcement agencies and I don’t think they can come close to the support we have (from) the citizens of South Dakota within everything that we do, whether it’s a post on social media where we have a lot of followers, and people that are just very, very complimentary of what we do and how we do it.
“It’s an honor to work with the men and women within the agency and also the men and women of the state of South Dakota.”