Behind the Uniform: Erik Kristensen

Officer Kristensen creates a safer campus and enjoys getting to know students along the way. Nathaniel Boley/Photo editor.
Officer Kristensen creates a safer campus and enjoys getting to know students along the way. Nathaniel Boley/Photo editor.

Whether we’re locked out of our rooms or on the edge of campus with a broken ankle and a pair of crutches, we know the officers of Campus Safety and Security (Security) are there to help us. One member of Security keeping us safe and keeping it cool is Officer Erik Kristensen.

Kristensen is a Berkshire native, hailing from Lanesborough, Mass., where he has lived his entire life. He attended Mount Greylock Regional High School, studied machine processing in a community college in Troy, N.Y., and worked in that trade before being laid off when his job was outsourced to other countries. Kristensen originally intended to go into law enforcement, but when precincts in the area weren’t looking to hire more policemen, he approached Director of Security Dave Boyer for a job at the College.

A position finally opened up a couple months later, and Kristensen began his employment in December of 2004. Today, the security officer works on a four-two rotating schedule — four days on duty followed by two days off — from 3:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., an ideal shift for the father of two young kids – a three year-old son and a daughter turning six.

Kristensen is glad he is working for the College and not the Williamstown Police Department (WPD). In certain circumstances, officers must team up with the WPD, so Kristensen is familiar with its procedures. In his experience, members of the WPD don’t have

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the patience that Security officers exercise regularly on their shifts. “We [Security officers] don’t fall under the Mass[achusetts] law: we can’t arrest people. We have to solve problems another way,” Kristensen said, “It’s so much easier to [detain or arrest someone] than to deal with the problem. Police don’t have the finesse that we have.”

One of Kristensen’s favorite aspects of the job is interacting with students. As an instructor for the Rape Aggression Defense physical education course, Kristensen interacts directly with a group of students on a regular basis, getting to know them better than he could through the more mundane responsibilities of his position. Given the nature of his work, however, Kristensen sometimes sees the same students in a not-so-great state. “Whether it’s sick or alcohol-induced sickness, I see [my students] at their worst; I see them at their best.”

Kristensen takes pride in helping out students in whatever way he can, from shooting a student an email that his or her car’s lights are still on or preventing a first-year from drinking too much by shutting down a party.

Kristensen says he has become fairly desensitized to a lot of what used to shock him earlier on in his tenure, but there are some exceptions. “There’s crazy stuff going on all the time,” Kristensen said, “People breaking down, having psychological crises – that stuff is still hard to watch and tough to deal with.” Probably the most eye-opening experience for Kristensen, he said, was watching an elderly professor pass away even after the CPR and AED officers used. Kristensen was also at the scene of the Mission Park drug bust of 2013 (see “Insight into recent drug arrest surfaces,” March 13, 2013); “That really stands out to me,” Kristensen said of the episode.

Over his almost 10 years serving as an officer here at the College, Kristensen has not only witnessed all kinds of incidents, but has also seen patterns emerge first hand. For example, much of the party scene depends on the residential halls and who lives in them. As such, back in the very early stages of the neighborhood system, Gladden House used to house a lot of male varsity athletes. “Gladden used to be like Animal House to the point where we [Security] were checking on them all the time.” Up until recently, many students used to sneak into the steam tunnels connecting all the buildings on campus, but Security has since installed motion detectors, which, according to Kristensen, have deterred people. Another trend Kristensen reports is the greater number of student parties taking place on a given night, but they’re each much smaller than they were a few years ago.

Though Kristensen has busted hundreds of parties, it was a party from the winter of early 2009 that made the biggest impression on him. Kristensen recalls opening the door to Lehman basement and being shocked at what he saw. “All the men were in speedos, the women in bikinis, and there were inflatable pools with water everywhere,” he said. “I don’t know how they did it. They had inflatable palm trees up to here,” Kristensen said, gesturing to about a foot over his head, “and coolers with ice and beer in them. I was like, ‘Wow, this is impressive.’ It wasn’t your normal, everyday party. We weren’t going to let it go…” Kristensen trailed off, “but it was still pretty neat.”