NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Stress comes with just about all jobs one time or another, but for law enforcement the occurrence can be daily. The criminal justice department at Stephen F. Austin State University wants future law officers to be prepared, so a police officer stress class is taught.
The instructor speaks from experience.
"Chapter 3. Occupational stressor and consequences," said Lt. Dan Taravella with the Nacogdoches Police Department.
Taravella has never taught a university class on police stress, but the 24-year police veteran knows the topic. He's seen what police stress can do to a body.
"Elevated blood pressure, elevated heart rate, maybe sweating, nervous," Taravella said.
Taravella tells students he's worked with people who come to work with knots in their stomach on a daily basis.
"They're just too sick to their stomach to come to work on many days," Taravella said. "And they'll eventually quit, especially in this profession. Some of you might become that person. You're stressed every day just to put on your uniform to come to work. That's going to weigh heavily on you, and many of you might leave the profession."
The warning is given not to discourage a future police officer, but to prepare them for the reality of the profession.
"You have to know that anything could happen at any moment and be in a healthy state of mind and be prepared to deal with it when it does," Taravella said.
Public awareness about police stress is increasing. In some circles it's brought appreciation for law enforcement. Then there's the downside.
"We're going to have a little more difficulty recruiting people to get into law enforcement," Taravella said.
Criminal justice student Shelby Smith is aware of the stressors and the dangers.
"My opinions have changed slightly, but they've changed for the better," Smith said.
So far, she's determined to stay on track toward a criminal justice career.
"We're still trying to protect people even if people don't exactly trust us right now," Smith said. "We're trying to make the system better."
That is just one of the reasons why this veteran officer leaves his comfort zone for a slightly stressful classroom. Taravella wants to share solutions for dealing with police stress so future officers can be recruited and retained.
Taravella cited socialization, such as developing and maintaining a strong family life, as a top police stressor. Another leading cause of stress in police work is facing danger without warning.