As a South Dakota Highway Patrol trooper, Samantha Pulse lives by the three E’s: Enforcement, Education and Example.
She knows many people categorize troopers with enforcement, but it’s not why she went into this profession.
The Salem native has always had an interest in public service and was introduced to the Highway Patrol after attending the Youth Trooper Academy in 2016. While she always knew that's the career path she wanted to take, she was forced to wait just a little longer due to the coronavirus pandemic. But she and the rest of her graduating class were recently recognized as patrol officers. Now, they're out in the field.
Pulse, 22, found roads as a highly populated place where she could help educate young drivers and set an example. She wants to reduce crime, but also be more than a face pulling someone over.
“One of the biggest things I learned early on was everyone is on the roadways,” Pulse said. “I figured if I could be out on the roadways seeing violations that happen on the roadway and being able to talk to those young drivers and educate them and set examples for them and enforce the laws, that would help reduce crimes.”
Stationed at the Parkston Police Department since April 9, the recent graduate has adjusted to being in the car by herself for the first time. Her experience due to the COVID-19 pandemic has been a little different than originally anticipated. She can’t have violators come back to her car and needs to learn the COVID-19 policies for surrounding areas, but her squad has assisted with any questions she’s had.
She brings the three E’s to a job that specializes in crashes and handling traffic violations on the highways, though patrol troopers also assist with any council or city agencies. It hasn’t led to any headline-grabbing encounters through her first two months, rather Pulse has been more focused on handling situations by herself.
She credits her 10 weeks of field training spread across Sioux Falls, Aberdeen and Belle Fourche for her background knowledge, but knows even after 33 weeks of training, new situations arise all the time. It’s about staying flexible and adapting to new situations, which was drilled into troopers’ minds during the 10-week trooper academy.
“No situation is the same. No traffic stop is the same. That was one of the most important parts to learn was not being so robotic where you’re set in one way and it has to go one way,” Pulse said. “Being able to adjust and adapt to each situation differently, and as it comes at you is important for our aspect to the job.”
Prior to the field training, Pulse spent 23 weeks in Pierre. She was in the basic academy for 13 weeks and trooper academy for 10 weeks. Her training ended with 10 weeks of field training.
Pulse was the lone female in the 11-person graduating class, but said the team-first mentality and family atmosphere helped her adjust to multiple aspects.
“Being away from your family for so long, it kind of wears on you a little bit,” Pulse said. “But you’re able to build a new family during that time at the academy. You built special bonds and special relationships with those people that you’re there with for five days a week, 24/7.”
The training was meticulous at times. There were daily room inspections, which forced Pulse to pay attention to small details like making sure her bed was made correctly and the corners of the room were dusted.
The basic academy focused on basic traffic laws, criminal laws and how to handle certain situations. It also went over tactical situations, how to talk to people and worked on shooting. In the trooper academy, the focus was more on firearms, traffic laws and Emergency Vehicle Operator Courses (EVOC).
“We worked together as a team,” Pulse said. “If one failed, we all failed, so having that mindset really helps out. It’s not just you as an individual. Once you realize that, and everybody else realizes that, it goes a lot quicker.”
The end passed without a graduation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, though. The April 9 graduation for Class 62 was put off for two and a half months until June 19, when her work was recognized. It put a long-awaited bookend to her training career.
“It’s nice to actually have that closure now instead of having to wait even longer,” Pulse said. “… That graduation basically said, ‘You made it through that portion of it. You’re done with that. You completed all this. You’re successful and now you can do it yourself.’ ”