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Detective Sergeant Hofmann Retires After More Than 25 Years Of Service

After more than 25 years of service in law enforcement – 23 with the Spearfish Police Department – Detective Sergeant Steve Hofmann retired on April 5, 2024.

“I have always had a love for the job and the Spearfish area,” he said of his career. “I greatly enjoy the people I work with and the citizens of Spearfish alike.”

Born and raised in Huron, SD, Sgt. Hofmann grew up with a front-row seat to law enforcement and the ways in which it impacted the community: His father served for more than 27 years as a Beadle County Deputy Sheriff. Sgt. Hofmann distinctly remembers from his childhood how people would see his dad out and about in the community, such as at the grocery store, and stop and talk, and talk, and talk, like old friends, even if his dad didn’t know who they were.

“I thought it was neat that just because of the uniform, people would come talk to you,” he said, describing how there aren’t many professions that cause strangers to approach and talk to a person about all manner of topics because of the nature of the job. Sgt. Hofmann saw his father be a person anyone could approach, helping people all the time, and these actions inspired him to follow the example, eventually making his way into law enforcement.

After graduating from high school, he worked at the local packing plant for two years, during which time he applied to become a police officer in Huron. He describes in the 1990s, it was much harder to get into law enforcement due to the large pool of applicants. Sgt. Hofmann remembers being one of 125 applicants for three open positions in one jurisdiction, whereas now agencies the world over struggle to recruit and retain officers.

To help him reach his goal of finding a career in the field, Sgt. Hofmann attended Western Dakota Tech, graduating from the law enforcement technology degree program in 1998. He took a job with Kmart, working as a loss control associate in Rapid City and then obtaining a position as Loss Control Manager in Spearfish, and during this time, he became a reserve deputy for the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office. Reserve deputies would assist with patrols and help with shifts if need be, doubling up with other deputies and doing ride-alongs.

He continued to look for full-time jobs in law enforcement and was hired by the Hamlin County Sheriff’s Office, headquartered in Hayti, SD, where he would work for the next couple of years.

“I had a lot of interesting experiences,” he said of small-town life in Bryant, SD, which had about 425 residents at the time. He joked they changed the population on the welcome sign to town to reflect his presence when he moved there. How many deputies worked there at the time? “Me. I was the chief deputy because I was the only deputy,” Sgt. Hofmann said.

Hamlin County is about 32 miles wide, and in addition to the sheriff and deputy, there was a game warden in the county. At the time, 911 did not exist in Hamlin County, so the emergency number was a seven-digit number they would teach the children at school and send out on magnets for people to put on their refrigerators. After hours, the sheriff’s office phone would be forwarded to Sgt. Hofmann’s landline at his home, which would then forward to his cellphone if he was not home.

“So we were dispatch, also,” Sgt. Hofmann explained, describing if the person on the other end of the phone call needed emergency medical or fire services, he would need to call the corresponding agencies to get their response.

“During that time, I gained a large amount of experience. I learned to manage myself both on and off the job and learned that being able to communicate with people effectively was a very important part of this line of work,” he said. He did as much community policing as possible, visiting the schools, attending community events, and talking to people the same way he had seen his father do, which would serve him well throughout this career.

From Hamlin County, Sgt. Hofmann returned to Spearfish in 2001 when he was hired as a police officer, and he spent about two years on patrol when he was approached about teaching DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) in the schools. He said no at first, thinking public speaking in a classroom wasn’t something he was interested in doing, but the more he thought it, the more interested he became, and he had also been promised that if he became a DARE instructor, he could also become a firearms instructor, a role he was interested in.

“As it turned out, I enjoyed DARE more than I enjoyed firearms,” he said. Shortly after he returned from DARE training, he learned the school resource officer (SRO) position was open due to a promotion, and he became the second ever SRO in the Spearfish schools. He describes this chapter of his law enforcement career as one of his favorites.

“School resource was a blast,” he said. From initially being fearful of public speaking, Sgt. Hofmann created his own curriculum from everything to bullying to bicycle safety to get in the classrooms. “It took me out of my comfort zone but was a great decision as I gained an enormous amount of skills in the areas of public speaking, coordination, and organization.”

As much as he enjoyed the position, after about three and a half years, a promotion presented itself when corporal positions were introduced to the department, and not wanting to miss out, Sgt. Hofmann applied for and was promoted to corporal in 2006. He was promoted to sergeant in 2010, and in 2020, he moved into the Investigations Division, when he took on the title of Detective Sergeant.

“I’ve worn a lot of different hats at different times,” he said of his time with the Spearfish Police Department. At various times, he’s been in charge of equipment, field training, scheduling, investigations, evidence room management, fleet management, alcohol compliance checks, and many other tasks. He has seen a great deal of changes in technology throughout the years. He remembers when he first started as an officer in Spearfish, he drove a Crown Victoria with a camera system in the trunk, which was essentially a VCR that required the officer to put in a tape.

“As far as technology goes in law enforcement, it changes all the time. It’s just continuous,” he said.

What’s stayed the same is the importance of keeping officers involved in their community.

“The community policing aspect is so key for everything,” he said, explaining there is no technology that reduces the need for engagement with the community. “You have to have that face-to-face contact.”

Sgt. Hofmann said the department has prioritized this community aspect, even while being short-staffed, participating in activities like the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics, Polar Plunge, Tip-A- Cop, school activities, community events, etc. “That’s why people bring us food during stressful situations going on around the country. They bring us donuts and thank us for what we’re doing: It’s our community.”

And after meeting thousands of students, spending time talking to and building relationships with community members, and prioritizing community policing throughout his years of service, Sgt. Hofmann (much like his father before him!) often hears someone call out his name when he is out and about, asking how he is and wanting to chat.

Sgt. Hofmann thanked the department for providing the opportunity to serve the citizens of Spearfish for more than two decades. He is looking forward to what the future holds, and he hopes it involves spending time hunting, fishing, camping, and spending time with family – especially in his role as grandpa.

“It has truly been a pleasure working with everyone … and I want to thank everyone for their friendship and caring through the years,” he said.


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