Lake County's newest deputy, Aric Dierkhising, brings both experience and commitment to his new law enforcement position.
Sworn in on Wednesday by the Hon. Patrick Pardy, Dierkhising joined the Lake County Sheriff's Office after serving with the South Dakota Highway Patrol for seven years. His working relationship with local law enforcement inspired him to make the transition.
"I always enjoyed working with members of this office and members of the Madison Police Department," he said.
Dierkhising began his professional career not in law enforcement, but in the U.S. Air Force, where he served first as a mechanic, advancing to the position of crew chief. Later, serving in the USAF Reserves, he was in security forces.
He studied law enforcement at Western Dakota Technical Institute in Rapid City, where he earned an associate's degree in law enforcement technology.
"They taught you a lot of what you needed to know to be a sought-after peace officer," Dierkhising said.
He was initially hired as an intern with the Highway Patrol, serving under Rick Miller, who has since assumed command of the agency and holds the rank of colonel.
"He is somebody I've always looked up to," Dierkhising noted.
While serving as an intern, he applied for a position with the Highway Patrol and was hired to serve in District 3. He was based out of Wall for five years. The Minnesota native then transferred to Brookings so that he and his wife could raise their children closer to their grandparents.
"My duty station was Madison," Dierkhising said. The move was one his family appreciated.
"They love it. They love the small town. They love the schools. They love the lakes," he indicated, adding that Madison is close enough to Brookings and Sioux Falls to offer other amenities as well.
His wife Ellie is a registered nurse and works at Madison Regional Health System. They have three children: a 10-year-old daughter and two boys, 7 and 2.
Prior to joining the Lake County Sheriff's Office, Dierkhising had begun serving the community as a member of the Lake County dive team. He said that COVID-19 has affected his training schedule, but he is hoping to be open-water certified when the threat passes.
"That's something I've always wanted to do," he said. For him, being on the water and in the water are natural.
"In the land of 10,000 lakes, you get used to being on the water, boating, swimming and fishing," Dierkhising commented.
He admits that being involved in rescue operations is most attractive, but recognized the importance of recovery operations as well. Those enable families to bring closure.
"If I can save a life or bring closure, I would like to be part of that," he stated.
Dierkhising is also a certified firearms instructor. In asking Lake County commissioners to approve hiring Dierkhising in April, Sheriff Tim Walburg specifically noted this qualification. The new deputy hopes to continue functioning in this role.
"I enjoy teaching, especially gun safety, etiquette and technique," he said.
As a law enforcement officer, he believes in treating others as he would like to be treated if the roles were reversed.
"I would hope that he or she -- that officer, trooper or deputy -- could step back and see the big picture," Dierkhising said.
With that belief, he said he tries to listen to both sides in any given situation. He believes that while he has a job to do, he can do that job in a respectful manner which enables those he encounters to maintain personal dignity. This philosophy of law enforcement was shaped by his early experiences in a small town.
"Growing up where I did, your smalltown deputies and police officers were involved in the community," he noted, using the example of a police officer who also served as a hockey coach.
With those examples and that of others in recent years, he believes that serving as a law enforcement officer involves being committed to the community.
"I want to make the community better and help out. I want to be approachable. I want somebody to come up and talk to me," he said.
His philosophy gives him a sure sense of doing what he believes he is called to do.
"Not everybody chooses this profession," Dierkhising said. "Those that do, it's a calling or something that fits for a reason. This is what God wanted me to do."