SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — They signed up to serve and protect, but the job of an officer can take its toll.

“We face a lot challenges, the stress of the job, the traumas you face over the course of a 20-year career in law enforcement can do a lot to your body,” said Detective Chris Cowan, the Syracuse Police Wellness Coordinator. “We’re seeing studies, that officers are having heart attacks at higher rates than the general population and sooner.”

Cowan wanted to change those stats. He knows his fellow officers don’t always go to the doctors so they brought them to the police department to do health and wellness checks.

“We bring the bus here, and we have all the resources here, hey why not. I’ll sign up, just get tested, make sure my heart’s okay,” Cowan said.

About 140 officers signed up to get their blood pressure checked, an EKG, and even a stress test among other screenings.

“It’s critically important for us to put just as much energy and emphasis behind proactively helping out the officers with their health and wellness as we do with proactively solve crimes,” said Syracuse Police Chief Joe Cecile.

This is personal for the chief.

“I had a heart attack in May of last year. And because of some of the preventative things I did, some of the things I’ve been doing, working out. Also I have to give credit to my wife who has a medical background and said there’s something going on. Went to the hospital, caught it in time and I’m here today because of that.”

Joe Cecile, Syracuse Police Chief

Cecile said he first felt shortness of breath for about two weeks. Then it felt like he was having bad indigestion, but it was on the top left side of his chest. He decided to get it checked out.

“We went to the hospital, sure enough, went through some procedures, and I was having a heart attack at the time.”

Cecile chose to be open about it, especially to officers so they understand just how important it is to make their own health and wellness a priority.

Cecile also said he thinks about Detective John Nolan who died last year. “He was a great friend and a great detective. One of the best detectives we ever had in our department. He passed away because of a heart attack,” Cecile said.