Prior to 1862. law enforcement in the huge Dakota Territory was provided by an appointed U.S. Marshall. his deputies, and U.S. Cavalry Troops. The first session of the Dakota Territorial Legislature provided for county organizations, however, little attention was given to local units of government at that time due to there being little or no revenue available to support them.
The Session Laws of the Dakota Territorial Legislature of 1862, Chapter 23, established a number of county offices including that of County Sheriff. The Sheriff's duties have varied somewhat through the years, but are basically much the same today. Sheriffs were empowered to preserve the peace in the County, maintain the jail, appoint deputies and serve legal papers and election notices for which a fee could be collected.
Sheriffs are the only law enforcement officers in South Dakota who have the distinction of always having been elected by the people, except in instances where appointments were made to fill vacancies, this has always been the case in Yankton County.
Dakota Territorial Sheriffs were elected to office for terms of two years. Throughout most of these past years, one person was restricted to serving two consecutive terms, or a total of four consecutive years in office. One obviously popular Sheriff, William Hickey, served sixteen years in office between the years of 1897 and 1934, in separate four-year segments.
After South Dakota became a state in 1889, the two-term limitation remained in effect until tenure for Sheriffs was approved by constitutional amendment in November of 1954. This amendment allowed Sheriffs to run for an unlimited number of successive terms. In 1975, Sheriffs began serving four-year terms rather than previous two-year terms in office.
Submitted By: Sheriff David H. Hunhoff
Yankton County, South Dakota