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Texas officer should not have been sent to pool party, UB expert says

Release Date: June 11, 2015

“It’s also possible that supervision had no choice, but if it were up to me, I wouldn’t have sent him to the pool melee. He had enough trauma for one day, and he should have been assigned to a less stressful call of some sort.”
John Violanti, professor of epidemiology and environmental health
University at Buffalo
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The Texas officer should not have been sent to the pool party, according to UB's John Violanti. Photo: Douglas Levere

BUFFALO, N.Y. – After responding to two calls involving a suicide and a suicide attempt, the McKinney, Tex. officer had been through enough trauma for one day, according to John Violanti, PhD, University at Buffalo professor of epidemiology and environmental health.

He shouldn’t have been sent to the pool party.

“It’s a judgment call for the supervisor, and it’s difficult to distinguish the degree of trauma an officer experienced,” said Violanti, who served with the New York State Police for 23 years and now studies psychological and biological indicators of police stress. “It’s also possible that supervision had no choice, but if it were up to me, I wouldn’t have sent him to the pool melee. He had enough trauma for one day, and he should have been assigned to a less stressful call of some sort.”

Stress and trauma are cumulative in nature, Violanti said. The more a person is exposed to these pressures, the more likely it is that he or she will reach a breaking point. The officer in question clearly reached that point and could no longer deal with the stress, and as a result, he had an outbreak of aggressive behavior, Violanti said.

“This officer had two really bad incidents that day, and we know that stress and trauma can impair your ability to think straight,” Violanti said. “Too much can lead to cognitive impairment and that may have happened to this officer.”

While it is impossible to stop traumatic incidents, the key is to increase the mental wellness of officers through training, Violanti said. Teaching officers how to calm down after traumatic incidents, how to stay in the present and relaxation tips are going to be essential, he added.

To find UB faculty experts on other topics — including issues trending in the news — visit UB’s Faculty Experts website.

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