Experience provides edge to protect and serve
Since Minot State University launched North Dakota's first criminal justice program in fall 1975, its graduates have honored the university's long tradition of service by protecting the citizens of the state and beyond. The oil boom and bust brought unprecedented challenges for law enforcement personnel.
Darrik Trudell, special agent with Homeland Security Investigations, graduated from Minot State with a bachelor's degree in social work in 2002. Upon graduation, he worked for North Dakota Department of Corrections as a patrol and probation officer for four years, then he was a special agent with the United States Secret Service in Philadelphia for five years. But he and his wife, Betsy (Vig) '06, missed the region's community spirit and values and wanted to move back to North Dakota. There is only one Secret Service agent in North Dakota, so he changed agencies and has been with HSI since 2011.
"HSI investigates a number of crimes," Trudell said. "In North Dakota, the agency investigates the import or export of anything across the international border and has immigration authority. However, the majority of the cases that we deal with up north here are child exploitation cases, such as Internet crimes against children, child pornography cases or solicitation of minors."
Trudell also works with the local drug task force.
"The biggest case I worked here is a three-and-a-half-year investigation of a double murder for hire case out of Watford city," Trudell confided. "The criminal killed his business partner in Spokane and his friend in Watford City. He was taken to trial and convicted for two life sentences plus 20 years."
Growing up the Sidney, Mont., native never wanted to be a police officer or in law enforcement. He wanted to coach football but got a job at the Dakota Boys Ranch when he started college and being a social work major coincided with that. The social work major gave him an advantage when he sought employment with the North Dakota Department of Corrections in patrol and probation.
"Probation services is a combination of law enforcement and social work," Trudell said. "You are dealing with offenders and their families and seeking services for them so they don't re-offend. My social work background gave me an edge. In law enforcement, the ability to talk to people is beneficial."
All of the coaches and Athletics Department administration, such as Rick Hedberg and Chad McNally, influenced Trudell, while he was a student. Andy Heitkamp, current Veterans Center director, was the person who influenced him the most.
"Andy Heitkamp got me to Minot State, and he helped me the most," Trudell related. "He always had good advice for us no matter what was happening in our lives. MSU is lucky to have Coach Heitkamp. My wife and I are passionate about MSU. It's been good to us."