After 26 years in law enforcement work, Captain Tony Harrison is retiring from the Pennington Country Sheriff’s Office. Harrison was just 24 years old in 1996 when he received the call informing him that he got the job.
“I got a call saying, ‘We’re going to hire you,’ and I’m like, ‘Wow, that’s kind of weird,’” said Harrison. According to Harrison, his very first dream job was to be an astronaut, but police officer was a close second.
“I said, ‘What’s the next most fun job?’ So, I said, ‘I’ll be a cop’ at 14,” said Harrison. “At 24, I got hired by Rapid PD. So, for eight and a half years, I did pretty much everything in the agency other than become a lieutenant or higher.”
“I worked five and a half years on patrol and loved it, loved working the streets, loved dealing with people, loved making contacts, loved finding dope. Doing drug work was always my passion. Dealing with gang members was always my passion.”
After those first few years, Harrison went to CID and became an investigator, dealing primarily with property crimes. After only two years as an investigator, his dream position opened up.
“After about two years, there’s an opening came open in the drug office. The unit, which is where my career goal was at that time, was to become a unit guy and drug guy. And so, I got that position. I was there for four years working narcotics, and that was like the heyday of my life at that point, was doing all that dope work and I enjoyed it all along.”
Harrison became involved with the SRT and the PD within a week of his new position.
“I want to do gangs, drugs and SWAT stuff. That was my three things because that looked like the most fun and I got involved with all three within five years of my career,” said Harrison.
Harrison was soon promoted to sergeant, and he supervised the first Street Crimes Unit for the Rapid City PD.
“So, I supervised the first Street Crimes Unit, and then I went to training after that for about a year and a half or two years, and I ran the training division for the PD, and then I went back to the unit as a sergeant, then went back as a sergeant of the PD who ran the city, county, state task force. All drug investigations. My passion. Had a ton of fun.”
Then, two years into that position, he went from the drug unit to patrol sergeant. Harrison wasn’t fond of the irregular schedule that came along with his new position, so he pitched an idea to Sheriff Thome to work in the Sheriff’s office as a sergeant. To Harrison’s amazement, he landed the job and worked in the drug unit for the Pennington Country Sheriff’s Office.
After that, a lieutenant position became available, which he applied for and didn’t get; however, a year later, a captain position came up. This time, he got the job.
“I’m a firm believer in life,” said Harrison. “You miss every shot you don’t take. So why not take the shot?”
As captain, Harrison patrolled for about three years before transferring to the Crime Investigations Division where he did undercover work and filled a variety of important roles.
“I’ve never looked any farther than this,” said Harrison. “This is where I wanted to end my years and my career, and that’s where I’m going in my career. And I’m pretty, happy about it. I love getting out of bed and coming to work. I love what I do, and I love serving the people.”
Harrison admits the career field he chose can be draining, mentally and emotionally, but he feels like he was built for the challenge – learning to always trust his instincts.
“And it does take kind of a special person, because you got to have thick skin, but you also got to have compassion, which is, you know, sometimes they’ll go hand in hand. You got to have empathy. You got to have quick decision making,” said Harrison.
Harrison says his worst day on the job was August 2, 2011, when officers Armstrong and McCandless were killed. Although the loss was immeasurable, Harrison believes the community was stronger following the tragedy.
“The benefit of that, was our community came to our rescue. We were really hurt. We were really broken, and our community came and helped us. And that’s a big deal to me, that they stood by us during all this, and I’ll never forget it,” said Harrison.
Despite the challenges of the job and the often-dangerous circumstances, Harrison is thankful for the opportunity to have served his community as a law enforcement officer.
“That’s what I love to do. I’ve loved serving the citizens of our city, our state and our country. I mean, it’s been a real blessing to serve the people of our community.”