Hill City has two new deputies

Gray Hughes


Hill City has two new Pennington County Sheriff’s Office deputies patrolling the streets.

Deputies Randal Southern and David Riley both started on the job in May.

Riley started with the Lawrence County Sheriffs Office as a corrections officer in 2009 part time, which then became a full-time corrections job. From there, he went on to the Deadwood Police Department as a full-time officer and then came back to the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office as a deputy.

He moved to the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office in January of 2019.

Southern served 25 years in the Marine Corps before joining the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office in September 2018.

“We applied for a transfer to Hill City,” Riley said. “I am a pretty big fan of small-town cop work. Coming from Lawrence County, that’s pretty much what it is: Spearfish, Lead, Deadwood, those are all really small towns.”

The police work done in a small town, he added, is more personable. People remember him and his fellow deputies, and he can make a name for himself.

Once he learns the area and the people, the job becomes a lot easier, he said. Overall, Riley said he is drawn to working in a small town.

Southern said he has the same thought process.

“I’m just trying to get away from the craziness of Rapid City for a little bit,” he said. “It’s more my speed coming up here. …It’s kind of a small town, and you get to know who you’re actually working with and working for. The community seems like it’s a little bit tighter bond in a smaller town because you see each other every day, you know who they are, you know who to help out and who needs a little direction sometimes.”

Southern said his goal is to establish a relationship between the community and law enforcement as well as to show the community  he is there for everyone.

He said they are in Hill City to help the city “the best we can.” That doesn't necessarily mean, he added, they will do that through law enforcement. It could be through “whatever else.”

“That’s why we’re here and it’s kind of my goal,” Southern said.

Riley agreed.

He said he wants to create a bond with the people he works for, which, he said, will become easier once he gets to know the people he works with every day.

After being on the job for a couple of days, Riley said Hill City is, in fact, a small town and everything he expected.

There are a lot of back roads and two tracks that need to be patrolled, he added, and that is something he will need to get used to.

“I’m sure it’s the same for Deputy Southern,” Riley said. “We still have a decent amount of patrol area, and that extends to the Wyoming border and even assisting with Keystone and further east. We have a lot of geography to get down.”

Southern said he is glad to see things in town are opening up again, and more people are starting to come to town and he gets to interact with people.

“So far, so good,” he said. “I haven’t had any issues.”

The people in Hill City, Riley said, have been inviting. They flag him down and want to know who he is because they recognize he is not a familiar face yet.

They introduce themselves and take an active interest in him, Riley added, and introduce themselves faster than he can introduce himself.

“I love it,” he said.

Southern is originally from Texas and never lived in South Dakota before moving here in 2018.

It is his first job since retiring from the Marine Corps, which took him all over the world.

Riley is originally from Southern California. He moved to South Dakota because he has family here, and did not want to be part of the “riff-raff” in San Bernardino County in California where he’s from.

He said he moved to the Black Hills in 2008, and it dropped five feet of snow in Spearfish (where he moved) that first winter, and Spearfish all but shut down.

“I didn’t know what that meant,” he said. “I high-tailed it back to California for the rest of that winter, came back out the summer of 2009. Those summers — 2008, 2009 and 2010 — I fought fire for the forest service, and that is what brought me out here. So I fought fire for the forest service and went into corrections from there.”

Southern said Hill City is a great place to be, and the people in town are great.

It’s very open, very friendly and the citizens take an active interest in what he’s doing, he said.

“It’s nice because you can talk to people,” Southern added. “You can ask people what problems they want us to come look at and where we need to concentrate and we have the ability to do that in areas like this.”

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