Craig Ernst: The Man in Black


Louis Herndon, Author

If he somehow managed to slip your radar, you certainly haven’t escaped his; this seemingly overqualified agent patrolling campus is the visible lead of Santa Fe High’s Safety Aide Division. 

His name is Craig Ernst, and he has revamped a department that previously was populated by employees of an external security agency. (All of the school’s safety aides are now employees of Santa Fe Public Schools.)

For 19 years, Mr. Ernst served in the Santa Fe Police Dept., dedicating himself to a multitude of sectors within law enforcement. He spent years as a patrolling officer, officer sergeant, investigator, and detective sergeant, fulfilling his wish to be a public servant.

Despite receiving the Medal of Valor in 2008 after rescuing a young woman from a gruesome car crash that left her unconscious in her vehicle engulfed in flames, Mr. Ernst recalls that “Detective work, especially crimes against children, were most significant to me.” It was in the Crimes Against Children Unit where Mr. Ernst felt his efforts as a detective were most impactful.

Following his retirement from the police force in 2020, Mr. Ernst wanted to continue his professional career as a public servant. In part influenced by his passion of bringing justice for children, Mr. Ernst saw the job opportunity at SFHS as another way his skills could be useful. 

“Attention to school safety has become increasingly important unfortunately because of horrible tragedies around the country,” he said. 

Along with Mr. Ernst’s arrival, the Safety Aide program is receiving more resources and has expanded its personnel. In an effort to maximize school security and extinguish threats of school shooters, the program will soon be implementing the “reverse fire drill.” 

While the details of the drill remain vague, Mr. Ernst described the drill as “a fluid and dynamic transition that teaches students to adapt to changing information.” The reverse fire drill is an attempt to practice the mass coordination of large groups and to teach flexibility. Mr. Ernst predicts that the reverse fire drill will eventually be a widely adopted practice at schools around the country.

Mr. Ernst considers his position on campus to be people oriented. Although his main concern remains campus safety, he strives to help students, teachers, and staff have a smoother experience at SFHS all around, and is willing to help in any facet. 

A Los Angeles native, Mr. Ernst majored in political science at UC Santa Barbara, two hours north from where his family resided in LA. Taking interest in the topic during his high school days, his decision to major in the field continues to prove useful in law enforcement. 

Mr. Ernst also happened to major in Slavic languages, which unveiled fruitful opportunities abroad in both Russia and Ukraine while he studied in the region for a semester. During this period, Mr. Ernst developed friendships overseas that persist to this day, while also honing his mastery of the languages. (He is also fluent in Spanish.)

Fresh out of college and in search of work, Ernst picked up a job at an importing and exporting firm, only to quickly realize that he was in search of a more “people oriented job that felt like a rewarding profession,” he said. 

His family moved to New Mexico when he was in his early twenties, putting Santa Fe on the list of possible new destinations. Mr. Ernst made the leap into the Land of Enchantment and joined the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Department in 2000.

Above all, Mr. Ernst considers his civilian position as one of community policing, one where he is available to listen to people, something he loves to do.

And for those wondering if they could out run or escape “The Man in Black,” it would be unlikely considering his hobbies include lifting weights, yoga, and martial arts.