Keene State College’s new Campus Safety director is using his experience as a Vermont state trooper sergeant to tackle the issue of COVID-19 on campus.
Christopher Buckley started his new job as director of Campus Safety July 20, just four days after retiring as a Sergeant in the Vermont State Police. Since his hiring, Buckley has played an active role in managing the virus on-campus. He’s been heavily involved in the behind-the-scenes work, including helping plan for the re-opening of the college and setting up pre-arrival testing for students, staff and faculty. Buckley has been responsible for scheduling weekly testing and setting up testing sites on-campus.
“What am I not doing with COVID-19 on campus,” Buckley asked in jest. “Planning around the virus is a full-time job.”
You might have seen Buckley in the Spaulding Gymnasium before during mass testing. He’s the tall man with the stocky build and closely-buzzed hair. At some point he probably fastened a bracelet on your wrist after you finished your test. His eyes police the room, making sure operations are running smoothly, however, his stern eyes contradict his welcoming smile as he greets patients on their way out.
Before Buckley had to monitor COVID-19 on campus, he was monitoring highways in the Green Mountain State as a trooper. He patrolled interstate 91 and covered Vermont’s Massachusetts border. Buckley said his barracks policed between 20 and 25 different towns, and for some of those towns the Vermont State Police were the primary source of law enforcement in the area.
Buckley was working as a state trooper at the beginning of the pandemic, so he was aware of what protocols he would have to practice as director of Campus Safety.
“I knew a little of what I was getting into, and I had been exposed to lots of training on emergencies and about maintaining calm in the face of a difficult decision,” Buckley said.
During the last seven years of his policing career, Buckley said the Vermont State Police took an active role in working with schools to prepare for emergency lockdowns. He was the liaison for other troopers on the force regarding monthly school visits. He said these school visits and training helped him prepare for his new job working with Keene State.
“I saw the job for director come along and I felt I had many of the skills they were looking for,” Buckley said. “I wanted a different challenge.”
Buckley said that whether serving as a state trooper or director of Campus Safety, both jobs require him to be alert and ready for the next call for help.
“I received different types of calls as a state trooper because I was dealing with the general public as opposed to a tight community, but I have to approach calls in Campus Safety the same way I would as a trooper,” Buckley said. “Both calls require passion and patience because you’re dealing with people in crises that need help. The pandemic is its own little crisis.”
Although state trooper and director are both busy jobs, the policing business is based on calls for surface level emergencies like violence and theft, according to Buckley. Campus Safety on the other hand is taking on big-picture emergencies.
“Campus Safety is figuring out how to deal with a global pandemic and how to limit the spread,” Buckley said. “We’re planning on emergencies and COVID with students and staff in mind.”
Buckley said he will miss his friends from the Vermont State Police. He has found new friends through Campus Safety, but it is more difficult to build friendships during a pandemic.
“I miss the camaraderie that I had with my fellow troopers on the force. There is similar camaraderie here with campus safety, but it’s harder with COVID-19 and distancing requirements,” Buckley said.
Buckley said being director of Campus Safety took some getting used to initially, which was especially the case after starting his new job during a pandemic. However, Buckley added that his interactions with students make him optimistic for the future.
“My experiences with students have been all positive so far,” Buckley said. “The community here is great and I feel welcomed in. I always see the ‘Owl’s United’ motto and I truly believe that. There is an incredible level of teamwork going on and I can’t wait for the virus to be over so we can resume in-person interaction.”
Hunter Oberst can be contacted at: