Four Years Later: UWEC study still recognized, utilized by law enforcement

A challenge coin from US Capitol Police is the latest token of appreciation.
Updated: May. 13, 2021 at 7:42 AM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - In early 2021, the Department of Kinesiology at UW-Eau Claire received a challenge coin from Capitol Police in Washington, DC. The coin was the latest addition to what has become a massive collection within the department. So, why are law enforcement agencies across the world sending items to UWEC? To properly answer that question you have to go back to a study that started on campus in 2017.

“I was like, oh yeah, this should be a really great study to partake in. We would be helping out the community, we would be helping officers, so let’s go full throttle, all in,” said Chantal Bougie, a UWEC graduate, and current physical therapy student at UW-Madison.

Bougie, along with other Blugolds, started a study looking at the health impacts of Eau Claire police officers moving their equipment from load bearing belts, to loadbearing vests. The study came at the request of the Mayo Clinic and was under the guidance of Kinesiology Professor, Dr. Jeff Janot.

“The doctors notes that were coming back to the police department were saying that these officers need to wear a load bearing vest,” Dr. Janot said.

One year later, in October of 2018, the results of the study were in. The data showed overwhelming evidence that switching an officers gear to a vest, instead of a belt, could reduce pain significantly and put the body in a better place.

Bougie and the officers were not surprised by the numbers. “I would say that they were happy with the results but they were not surprised because this is what they expected,” Bougie added.

While the results may have been anticipated, the next couple of years for the UWEC research team were not. A popular law enforcement website, Police 1, picked up the study and reported the results. Once their article was published, officers across the nation, and around the world, were contacting the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire.

Bougie said, “It was kind of overwhelming at first, just the amount of emails that we were getting in from departments all over. It was insane.”

Dr. Janot added, “It’s mostly individual officers who are contacting us saying we need your data to go to our city commission, or we need your data to go to our chief, or to our sheriff to say, we need this change.”

One of the departments that reached out was the Ayer Police Department in Massachusetts.

Officer David Lansing, with Ayer Police Department, explained, “We first heard about the research in an online article, so that turned us down the road to getting more information about the research from Professor Janot. We used his understanding to explain the technology and benefits to our officers.”

The benefits they experienced in Massachusetts were similar to those experienced in Eau Claire.

“I spoke to a couple of members and one person said they noticed a mild decrease in back pain, and another officer said since they deployed the technology there’s been no back pain while wearing the vest,” Officer Lansing added.

While the research from UWEC continued to spread, a conversation took place within the Department of Kinesiology that’s changing the look of the department.

“We were talking in my office one day and I said, yeah, I’m getting all of these contacts and this is really great and I’m sending this data,” Dr. Janot explained. “The police chief said to me, are you getting anything in return? And, I said no, I didn’t really ask. He said, yeah you should ask for challenge coins. I said, chief that sounds very strange to me, I’m not like that. He said, no no no, this is what they do in the community. You give something, you get something back. Officers love doing this. So, I crafted an email in response and said, hey, in exchange for our research would you send a patch, or a challenge coin? It’s amazing. These officers were like, oh, I love doing this! It was like, no big deal!”

The collection is starting to pile up. Patches and medals have been sent in from officers in Wisconsin, Cincinnati, Oakland, Indiana, Georgia, Norway, Brazil, Canada, and many other locations.

However, receiving the medal from US Capitol Police, was special.

“Two weeks after the incident on January 6, the officer in the email had said, I know with the recent events maybe you don’t want to do this. I was like, this isn’t about that. This is about helping individuals that serve us, and so being able to contribute to what they were trying to do at the US Capitol as officers, and getting something in return, was huge. That’s definitely number one on the list I would say,” Dr. Janot added.

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