SPEARFISH, SD – After more than three-and-a-half decades of service with the department, Spearfish Police Chief Curt Jacobs still wakes up each morning and looks forward to coming to work, and he recognizes this will be a major change after March 17 – his final workday before retirement.
It’s going to be different, not coming to this,” he said.
Jacobs’ journey with the Spearfish Police Department began in 1987, when he joined the reserve program. He took a full-time job with the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office, as a jailer, in 1988, continuing to serve as a reserve officer in Spearfish until he was hired as a full-time patrol officer in 1991. He became a K9 officer with dog, Bear, a German Shepherd, in 1993 through 1999, and in 2000, he became a DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) instructor.
In December of 2001, Jacobs became the first school resource officer in the Spearfish School District. He remembers it was a new experience for teachers, students, and parents to have a police officer present within the schools. Jacobs went from wearing a uniform to wearing civilian clothes in the schools to help people feel more at ease, and he also kept a bowl of candy on his desk – something he still does! – to help welcome visitors. He focused on building relationships, and he remembers by the next semester, he had been accepted into the fold, describing the friendships he made with school administrators and teachers, as well as the number of students who would come to his office for help with problems or just to chat.
In 2003, Jacobs had the opportunity to apply for a promotion to sergeant, which he described as a difficult decision. As a school resource officer, he had regular work hours and time off on holidays. At the time, his son was in eighth-grade and his daughter in fifth-grade, and they were busy with school and sports activities. He knew the promotion would entail patrol shifts, but he also knew he wanted to advance his career and gain experience in a supervisory capacity. He ultimately received the promotion, and the next year, due to an early retirement, he was able to apply for another promotion, with his rank elevating to lieutenant in June 2004. He held this title until 2012, when he became the assistant chief, before being promoted to chief in 2019.
I’m very proud of our community. I’m very proud of our department. I’m proud that I had a part of where we’re at today, of developing this agency to grow with the times and be just what the city needs, and the partnership and the relationship we have with the community,” Jacobs said.
This theme of community originally ignited Jacobs’ interest in law enforcement. He described growing up in small-town Stickney, South Dakota, where his father was a partner in a furniture and flooring business, as well as a volunteer firefighter, as was his business partner, who also ran the funeral home in town – which meant the hearse doubled as an ambulance when needed! His father’s active role in the community resulted in his knowing many of the local law enforcement officials, and Jacobs grew up seeing first responders in a variety of situations.
That’s what sparked my interest,” he said, describing his doubts when he was younger that law enforcement would be an option as a career. After graduating from Spearfish High School, he worked in construction and had a job at the lumberyard. He was also a volunteer firefighter, joining the Spearfish Fire Department in 1986, and various people in his life encouraged him to get involved with the police reserve program, as well.
I loved it,” he said of his first experience as a reserve officer. “
Between fire service and law enforcement, I like helping people. There’s something about, when people are having their very worst day, and you can do something to help mitigate it, make it better for them, it makes me feel good. I’m proud to be able to help people, when they’re having that horrible day and need some assistance.”
Many things have changed since Jacobs started in law enforcement. In 1991, his patrol officer position was a new addition, bringing the total number of sworn officers to 11. Today, the department has grown to 25 sworn officers. The equipment and training have also vastly improved, Jacobs said, chuckling as he remembers how excited the officers were when the department got its first cellphone (yes, one cellphone for the entire department!). He also remembers having to put chains on the police vehicle tires in the winter, as the department did not have any vehicles with four-wheel drive. Even the facility in which the department is housed is quite a change from Old City Hall on Main Street. These changes, coupled with a supportive city council and community, have impacted the development of the department over the years.
I’m very proud of the professionalism of this department, the way that we are seen in the state,” Jacobs said, explaining the Spearfish Police Department has a very good reputation because its staff take their jobs and training seriously. “
All the people who work here are a tremendous team who support each other and yet help hold that high professional standard as we’re going through all the situations that we deal with.”
To people who are interested in public service, and law enforcement specifically, Jacobs advises it is not an easy job due to the stress and shift work; however, for people who feel called to help others in the community, the profession provides unique opportunities every day.
It isn’t about just enforcing the law; it’s how we make things work in our community so that we have a society that functions properly. It’s quality of life,” he said. “
We have a big hand in quality of life for people in our community.”
Jacobs knows there are many things about the job he will miss, while at the same time he is anticipating the next chapter of life in retirement.
I look forward to spending more time with my family, my grandchildren, taking them fishing and camping, more time with my wife,” he said.
And Jacobs knows he can wake up each morning knowing the department he’s been part of for nearly 36 years was, and remains, built on a foundation of service to the community.
Thank you to the community for all of the support you’ve shown over the years; thank you to all of the dedicated employees I’ve worked with; thank you to my family for your love and care,” Jacobs said. “
I am extremely grateful to live in and serve this community.”
His family invites everyone to join in Jacobs’ retirement celebration, 5:30-9 p.m. Friday, March 17, at the Elkhorn Ridge Resort Event Center, to include live music from Midnight Sun.
Photo captions: Police Chief Curt Jacobs is retiring after nearly 36 years of service with the Spearfish Police Department. The trading card, from 1995, features Jacobs in one of his earlier roles as a patrol and K9 officer with Bear, a German Shepherd. Photos courtesy Spearfish Police Department