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Federal grant to fund UB's police stress study

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

The life of a police officer is often a highly stressful one. How much that stress affects long-term health is the focus of a four-year study being conducted by the University at Buffalo, funded by a grant from the federal government.

The $2.5 million grant comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. It was announced on Monday in downtown Buffalo by Congressman Brian Higgins.

"Those who choose this noble profession are subject to demanding situations that can have serious consequences on their health," said Higgins, who joined Buffalo Police and UB officials in a news conference outside the B-District station house on Main Street at Tupper.

Leading the study will be John Violanti, research professor of epidemiology and environmental health in UB's School of Public Health and Health Professions. Some of his past work will be incorporated into this study.

"We know from our research that heart disease is much higher in our police population in the United States than it is in the general population," said Violanti. "We know that police officers suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder because they see so many horrible things in their work."

Violanti is a former law enforcer, previously serving 23 years with New York State Police. Having a police background, say Buffalo Police officials, helps build a trust by the officers who will be studied.

"In the beginning I think they were kind of hesitant but then I think word got out quick about Violanti and his program and the benefits of it," said Captain Patrick Mann. "It got to the point where officers were calling, asking to attend the program."

Among the factors researchers are curious to learn more about: whether rampant social media, which often fuels emotions among members of the public in contentious cases, can be part of the problem. Violanti told reporters that in the wake of social media, officers may sometimes hesitate at a scene, a move which can be life-threatening.

It's believed some of what is found from this study may prove relevant to workers in other high-stress occupations.

"This research study aims to collect valuable data to be used to improve stress prevention practices for police and other working populations," said Congressman Higgins.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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