Rural law enforcement isn’t for everyone.
It can be an isolated job that not everyone is suited for, Pennington County chief deputy Brian Mueller said.
And, there’s no set formula for hiring a law enforcement officer, Pennington County patrol Captain Corey Brubakken said.
Some officers come from other agencies. Many have criminal justice education or a background in corrections.
Doug Kimball came to Pennington County from a small police force in South Carolina. His wife is a law enforcement ranger at Mount Rushmore. He has bachelor’s degrees in biology and criminal justice.
A Kadoka native, Pennington County deputy Dallas Kendrick has a master’s degree in exercise science. After working as strength and conditioning coach in Montana, he decided to return to South Dakota.
After three years on the job, he loves law enforcement and working in Wall.
“I couldn’t do another job,” Kendrick said. “I like helping people. It feels like you’re actually helping people out here.”
The night shifts are the hardest for Kendrick because of the slower pace in the small community.
“Some nights you don’t see anyone,” he said.
“Overall, law enforcement people are social people and they are drawn to that social interaction,” Mueller said. “That can be tough on people.”
Not everyone who enters law enforcement has a good grasp of the solitude of the job until they are working a midnight shift.
“That is something that does have a real impact on our personnel, learning to how to cope and deal with that,” Mueller said.
Kendrick said it’s important not to let those slow, lazy nights give you a sense of security. Situations can change in an instant, especially during the summer tourist season.
“You still have to be aware of what’s happening around you. It’s a balancing act,” he said.
Calls can come from anywhere in the area. It’s not uncommon for a deputy to have calls 30 to 40 miles apart.
Kimball is rarely in the building. He’s either patrolling the town or working out in the country, serving civil papers or patrolling.
On any given day he can clock 400 miles on his Tahoe, either patrolling or responding to calls.
When he’s not working in or around Hill City to meet the obligations of the county’s contract, he patrols the vast network of roads in western Pennington County to stay familiar with them.
“I much prefer my office to be out here in the Hills than in Rapid City,” Kimball said. “I firmly believe in preventative patrol. The more you’re seen, the less likely people are to commit a crime.”
Kimball’s days on duty will run the scale from very quiet and routine — “Sometimes you can go a whole shift without a single call,” to frantically paced days that end with overtime.
“You never get bored,” Kimball said.
“There are times of the day when you are busy from the beginning of the shift and stay busy all day long,” said Pennington County Sheriff's Deputy Louis Lange.
After 20 years with the Rapid City Police Department, Lange retired as a lieutenant. He joined the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office four years ago. He has lived and worked in the Wall area for the past three years.
He likes living and working in a community where he knows everyone. He knows whose door he’s knocking on when he makes a call.
“You don’t have that chance when working in Rapid City or a bigger place,” Lange said.
Lange also likes having the time to deal with cases because he is so familiar with the people and area he serves.
“Many times, I can have something resolved before I get off work or if a crime has taken place, usually within a few days or a week, I have a pretty good idea who is responsible,” he said.
Kendrick said former Pennington County Sheriff Don Holloway and Lange helped him understand subtleties of working in a small community. When he first started working in Wall, Kendrick admits he was aggressive and eager to make his mark. Now, he has a better understanding of small town dynamics.
“Communities will only tolerate so much policing,” Kendrick said.
“A heavier hand doesn’t always work the best,” Kimball said. “I don’t try to set examples.”
Like every law enforcement officer, deputies have a vast arsenal of tools at their disposal — fire arms, Tazers, batons, pepper spray, radios, cellphones, computers, radar, and video cameras, but when they’re out there alone answering a call, they rely first and foremost on their training and intellect.
“When you’re the one out there dealing with the situation one-on-one, seconds can seem like minutes and minutes can seem like hours,” Mueller said.
By careful staffing, having good community contacts and strong relationships with other agencies, deputies know that when they call for back up anyone hearing that appeal will response.
“It’s very comforting to know that in Pennington County, the cavalry is coming when you need help,” Mueller said.