South Dakota Highway Patrol

In 1935, the Governor of South Dakota, Tom Berry, recognized the need for an organization to enforce the traffic laws and provide assistance to the motoring public.

Governor Berry appointed ten men that were known as the "Courtesy Patrol". These men were tasked with enforcing all the laws in South Dakota and helping to inform the public about the states emerging traffic regulations. Each man was given a car, affectionately 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.

The Courtesy Patrol rules required them to stop and aid all motorists on the highway. If the motorist was changing a tire, the patrolman stopped to help. He never left a stalled automobile until the driver was safely on his way. The legislature abolished the Department of Justice in 1937 and the authority for the Highway Patrol was transferred to the Highway Department.

The Courtesy Patrol was disbanded and the new Motor Patrol was founded. 1958 saw a record 240 people die on South Dakota roads. By executive order, various colored and unmarked patrol vehicles were utilized for a time to help reduce the death toll from traffic accidents. The port of entry system was started on a trial basis.

As the 1960's began, there was an expansion of the port of entry inspection stations and top mounted police lights on patrol cars were seen for the first time and two-tone SDHP patrol cars shortly followed. In 1967, the Motor Vehicle Safety Inspection Program commenced, and more troopers were hired. In 1974, the governor saw fit to authorize the hiring and training of 75 new SDHP officers. Shortly thereafter, the district concept was reorganized and vast improvements were made in the administration of the Patrol.

As time marched on into the new millennium, the mission of the Highway Patrol continued to be DUI interdiction, drug enforcement and accident prevention. Since it's inception in 1935, the South Dakota Highway Patrol moved from a reactive organization to a proactive group of men and women who anticipate changes in highway safety and enforcement techniques.

The Patrol has matured into a professional law enforcement agency prepared to respond to the ever changing needs of the public it serves. The 157 members of the Highway Patrol wear the uniform and badge with pride and distinction.

South Dakota State Flag

The South Dakota flag features the state seal surrounded
by a golden blazing sun in a field of sky blue. Letters reading
"South Dakota, The Mount Rushmore State", the official state nickname,
are arranged in a circle around the sun.


1938 State Vehicle Tax Exempt base.
The type used for the HP in it's day but this
was most likely a person at or near the level of Governor.
We are looking for a picture showing
this type plate on duty....
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1953 issue- STATE Vehicle plate. Embossed thin steel. (Approx 5.5" x 10.5") Type used by Division of Motor Patrol
We are looking for a picture showing
this type plate on duty....
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1957-1959 issue- 1957 State Vehicle plate with 1959 validation tab. Reflective background. No reserved number bloc for SD Division of Motor Patrol (SDHP)


Picture courtesy of the
South Dakota Highway Patrol

1968-1970 issue- SP prefix indicated
South Dakota Highway Patrol

Plate courtesy of the Robert Ward Collection
We are looking for a picture showing
this type plate on duty....
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1968-1970 issue. Early version with only S prefix. Attested to be obtained from SDHP trooper "back in the day" and was possibly intended for use by a pool patrol car not assigned to a given badge number.

We are looking for a picture showing
this type plate on duty....
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1971-1973 issue. Red over reflective white.
First time "HP" prefix was used for SDHP license plates.

Clear photo or available specimen
needed for Norm's collection.
 

1974-1976 issue- Previous issue was similar but
with red painted characters.

Plate courtesy of the Robert Ward Collection
We are looking for a picture showing
this type plate on duty....
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1978-1981 issue- Non-galvanized embossed steel. Existing records indicate this format was used between 1978 and 1981. However what has me wondering, is that this plate bears evidence that the original colors were RED over white. The black has been painted over the red. With red painted characters being used from at least 1968 to 1973, it has me wondering if this plate could have been issued earlier than 1978, or just simply a corrected error. Since I have no real evidence to contradict established (albeit sketchy) data, I will stipulate that this plate is a 1978-1981 issue until photographic or other evidence deems otherwise.

We are looking for a picture showing
this type plate on duty....
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1981-1988 issue- Galvanized steel. Step border. Rectangular indentation between upper bolt-holes on some SDHP vehicles had a white strip decal bearing the Patrol District number in red. Similar plates with MC prefix indicate the SDHP Motor Carrier Enforcement section.

1988 issue. Embossed galvanized steel.

Picture courtesy of Robert Ward

1988-circa mid 1990's issue- 50th Anniversary plate. (Completely silkscreened galvanized steel)
We are looking for a picture showing
this type plate on duty....
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1990 -1996 issue used by Colonel Gene Abdallah,
Superintendent of the SDHP from 1995-2000.
Uses 1990 script graphics however stamped onto a
base plate with 1988 holograms.
Top legend "HIGHWAY PATROL" is a decal
and not silkscreened.
We are looking for a picture showing
this type plate on duty....
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2000-2005 issue- SDHP emblem decal on left.
Reflective decal in bottom right corner
with HIGHWAY over PATROL.



Current issue- SDHP emblem decal on left. Reflective decal
in bottom right corner with HIGHWAY over PATROL.

Completely flat, screened plate


Current issue
Alcohol/Drug Interdiction Unit

Picture courtesy of Jim Benjaminson

The Unit it's mounted to.
Picture courtesy of Jim Benjaminson

1986 International Association of Accident Reconstruction
Specialists conference issue. Hosted by SDHP that year.
Plates were handed-out to attendees as a keepsake.
 

Prototype plate
Picture source: e-Bay