“I enjoy helping people feel safe,” said former Arkansas State Track & Field student-athlete Erika Christian.
Growing up in Memphis, Tenn., Christian witnessed a great deal of delinquent activity in her community and knew she wanted to make a difference somehow, someday. Law enforcement provided that avenue.
“I wanted to be a teacher, for a long time,” said Christian. “But, when I got to high school, my high school wasn’t perfect. I went to a school where some kids were doing horrible things and delinquent activities.
“I wanted to be on the other side. I’ve seen how some students disrespect teachers and the impact that it has on educators. So, I wanted to flip it and be on the enforcement side instead of the teaching side. I’ve been able to make a big difference this way.”
Christian knew the best way to make a difference was to set an example and earning the opportunity to run track at a Division I university was a phenomenal start.
“Arkansas State gave me the best feeling of family,” said Christian. “I visited a lot of schools, and it was fun, but they didn’t have the cohesiveness like Arkansas State. The coaches did a great job of recruiting me, and you just can’t find that everywhere. That’s what got me. I’m glad I made that decision.”
Christian ranks fourth all-time at A-State in the indoor 400-meter dash (55:52), eighth all-time in the outdoor 400-meter dash, and has a record of 63 top-10 finishes in her career. Christian played a pivotal role in helping A-State Track & Field to its first Sun Belt Conference outdoor Championship since 2001, in 2015. In the same year (2015), she earned All-SBC honors in the league’s indoor championships with a second-place finish in the 400-meter dash (55.52) and a third-place finish in the 4×400 meter relay (3:49.40).
“It was amazing,” said Christian. “Being able to win and be with my teammates who were my roommates from freshman to senior year. It’s great to see all of our hard work finally pay off.”
In addition to being a student-athlete, Christian enjoyed shooting student-life photography for the A-State yearbook.
“I liked capturing the moment and connecting with the athletes,” said Christian.
One of Christian’s favorite events was to shoot was Arkansas State football games, and on the sideline, she would always notice the sheriff. Extremely curious, Christian finally sparked a conversation about law enforcement with Lieutenant (ret.) and Arkansas State trooper Robert Speer.
“Erika talked to me about wanting to get into law enforcement,” said Speer. “We became friends and visited a lot more about it. It’s a difficult job, especially for a female, or anybody, it’s just tough. One thing I was impressed about her was that she was a great athlete, she knew what teamwork was, what it meant to work hard and do the right thing. That’s a good start for being in police work.”
Two weeks after graduation, Christian became serious about law enforcement and went to work for the Memphis Police Department.
“She did excellent over there,” said Speer. “It’s kind of funny because she had never shot a pistol before. I took her out one day and taught her how to shoot, and she didn’t have any bad habits to break because she never shot. But of course, she was already strong enough to be able to handle a weapon. A lot of times people aren’t strong enough to do correct techniques to handle a handgun or weapon.”
Entering the shooting portion of the Memphis Police Academy, Christian quickly excelled to the top of her class, by carefully applying the skills taught to her by Speer.
“That was the toughest part for me, learning how to shoot,” said Christian.
Christian was nominated class speaker after finishing top-five in the class, in 2018.
“I was very proud of her,” said Speer.
“I was one of the go-getters of my class,” said Christian. “I didn’t let many things get to me. A lot of my classmates had never seen a female run so fast and being able to excel in what is a male-dominated field is an awesome feeling.
“Athletes are built different, we make everything a competition,” Christian added.
Christian enjoyed participating in community outreach programs during her time at the Memphis Police Department.
“I would host meetings with homeowners in the area (Memphis),” said Christian. “Memphis is a wonderful city but there’s also high crime in some areas and there’s a lot that goes on. It feels good knowing that I could make people feel safe in certain areas where there’s crime going on around them.
“I wanted to bridge the gap between kids and the police,” Christian added.
Through Erika’s young law enforcement career, she already believes that she has made an impact on encouraging more females to join the police force.
“I couldn’t tell you how many women I’ve helped join law enforcement, just by showing them that I can do it,” said Christian. “I don’t think being a female hinders me.”
Christian now works for the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport Police Department and is still looking for new ways to make an impact on those around her.
“I want to move into recruiting,” said Christian. “I want to recruit more Hispanics and African-American women. I can see more women joining the force. I can also see departments aiming to hire women just because of their edge to be talkers and their ability to deescalate.
Christian set a long-term goal with the DFW International Airport Police Department to be the first African-American woman to join the SWAT team.
Christian encourages all Arkansas State student-athletes to find out what they enjoy doing outside of sports.
“Now that COVID-19 has taken everything away, we’re kind of forced to find other things to do,” said Christian. “It’s important to find a plan B, it’s important to find out what you like, and it’s important to find out what you don’t like. When something you love so much is taken away, it gives you time to sit back and think about what else is out there. It’s a reality check.”
Christian graduated from Arkansas State University with a degree in Criminology and a minor in Sociology in August 2017.
Original article source: https://astateredwolves.com/news/2020/7/7/athletics-where-are-they-now-erika-christian.aspx | Article may or may not reflect the views of KLEK 102.5 FM or The Voice of Arkansas Minority Advocacy Council