UPD starts up new health program after deadly year for law enforcement

Students from the department of kinesiology met with members of the UPD on Wednesday to discuss the new health and wellness program. Photo courtesy of Abigail Harrison.

Abigail Harrison, News Editor

541 officers died in the line of duty in 2021, making it the deadliest year in law enforcement history, according to statistics from the Officer Down Memorial Page.

Of these deaths, statistics show COVID-19 was the leading cause of death among officers, with 375 officers dying from the virus.

The numbers are concerning to local law enforcement, and the University Police Department is taking steps to prioritize officers’ health and wellness, according to Michael Barton, UPD Chief of Police.

“Law enforcement continues to be one of the most dangerous and stressful jobs in the U.S.  It is imperative that we take care of our law enforcement officers so that they are at their best every day to take care of us,” the chief said.

To help improve officers’ physical and mental health, the UPD is starting a program with the department of kinesiology that will give students the opportunity to work a real life experience in their field, Barton said.

Brian Mann, Deputy Chief of the UPD, met with the students on Wednesday to discuss plans for the new initiative.The students will focus on creating exercise and dietary plans for the officers, Mann said at the meeting.

Mann said that because of their fast-paced jobs, many officers end up eating fast food after their shifts, contributing to an unhealthy lifestyle. Mann said this can lead to many cops becoming overweight, which he believes is a factor in the number of COVID-19 deaths among officers.

Mann hopes the students can bring their knowledge to teach officers how to eat healthy on the job and how to utilize the exercise equipment the UDP has in-house. He also would like to see some mental health initiatives because he said officers experience traumatic situations on the job. 

When asked about how he hopes the program will help the UPD officers, Mann said,  “They’re gonna be healthier. They’re gonna call out less for being sick. They’re gonna be more fit for duty.”

The program is still in its early stages, and the students are currently coming up with plan ideas for the program.

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