I have been reading, with interest, about the shortage of police officers both within Cumberland County and throughout the nation. To be sure, there are many challenges and hazards inherent to a position in law enforcement, and the atmosphere on the street is only becoming more unpredictable.

I salute Sheriff Kevin Joyce for his ongoing efforts in the public sphere and within his department, and I certainly feel that the police presence in Cumberland County is overwhelmingly positive.

Through my work as a health professional, I have been made aware of one potentially damaging aspect of police work that could be immediately remedied.

As documented in many studies, the profession of law enforcement has a high incidence of low-back injury, ultimately culminating in frequent disability and early retirement. Departments throughout the country, including Kirkland, Washington, and Lincoln, Nebraska, have been addressing this by transitioning to load-bearing vests in lieu of the traditional waist belt.

The waist belt often bears over 30 pounds, which, because of the dynamics of leverage and position, over time give rise to a high rate of chronic and often-debilitating low-back pain. The load-bearing vest has been scientifically and biomechanically proven to reduce and disperse this load, thus alleviating the risk for low-back pain.

It is my understanding that there has been some hesitation about making this transition because of cost. However, projecting longitudinally, this will actually be a significant money-saving maneuver, given the cost savings in injury leave and staff turnover.

The sheriff and his department do a phenomenal job, and I am confident that his astute leadership will effect this necessary change for the well-being of his staff and, ultimately, the well-being of the citizens of Cumberland County.

Mia Marietta, M.D.