Eye on KELOLAND: Training to be a trooper


South Dakota will have some new troopers by this spring.

A group of men and one woman just completed about 12 weeks of training in the South Dakota Highway Patrol Recruit Academy, but there’s even more work to be done.

Louie Plunkett is a law enforcement veteran with about 15 years under his belt working for agencies in the southwestern United States.

But today he’s learning the ropes of the South Dakota Highway Patrol.

“Totally different environment up here than what I’m used to so the the way of doing things is a night and day difference from how I did them down in Arizona and California,” Recruit Louie Plunkett said.

Plunkett is a recruit in the program.

“Highway Patrol was always what I wanted to do, but life kept getting in the way and I was never able to get on a Highway Patrol until this opportunity opened up,” Plunkett said.

While Plunkett opens a new chapter in his longtime law enforcement career, recruit Colt Frerich is just getting started.

“Ever since I was young I wanted to be a cop,” Frerich said.

While the Minnesota native once considered a career in aviation, the Highway Patrol became the right choice for him.

“I’ve always just liked being in my vehicle on highways. I’m not really much of a city person. I’ve always liked venturing off into the rural area,” Recruit Colt Frerich said.

The training these recruits are getting covers everything from firearms, to DUIs, to crash investigations.

“From week one when they get here to our academy, I ensure them it’s not going to be an easy task. They’re going to earn every stitch; however, it is most certainly worth it in the end. Each week, just take one bite of the apple if you will,” Lt. Norman said.

But eventually that hard work pays off, and it’s time to be sworn in.

Recently, the 11 men and one woman were sworn in by South Dakota Supreme Court Chief Justice David Gilbertson.

But the work is far from over.

Now the recruits must complete 10 weeks of field training alongside a senior member of the agency before they can graduate and become South Dakota Highway Patrol troopers.

“I think at times we’re put in a negative light, thinking all we’re going is just writing tickets. That is not our goal. Our goal is to make sure every citizen and visitor that travels through our state gets to their destination safely. That is the whole reason we are out there is for public safety,” Lt. Norman said.

And it will be up to people like Plunkett to do that job.

“I love it. It’s just what I’ve always wanted to do and what I’ll keep doing until I retire,” Plunkett said.

Before the recruits started the Highway Patrol Academy they had to complete a 13-week basic law enforcement training.

If you want to apply to become a trooper, click here.

You must submit the application by February 28.

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