When you think of police officers what image comes to mind?
The tough-talking, physically fit cop walking the beat, ready to chase down a perp at the drop of a hat? Or an overweight man whose belly slows him down from even issuing a jaywalking ticket, let alone chasing down a suspect?
These days, as many of our compatriots struggle with obesity, our first responders are also feeling the pinch.
Back in March, officials in the London found that half of their male officers—52 percent—were overweight. Even more startling, 22 percent were obese and one percent was morbidly obese. Because of this, a review board recommended fitness tests be instituted throughout an officer’s career to make sure they can handle the physical demands of the job.
Currently the only fitness tests are for those applying to become police officers, or those joining specialist squads such as firearms.
Under the recommendations anyone who repeatedly fails fitness tests should be put on restricted duties, lose nearly £3,000 a year from their pay and ultimately be dismissed.
By September next year officers should be able to complete a series of 15metre shuttle runs, keeping up with an accelerating beep for three and a half minutes, and basic strength tests.
By September 2018 all officers should pass an assault course-style circuit test including crawling, jumping, climbing, running up stairs and dragging a ‘body’ away from danger.
Mr Winsor said fitness equipment should be installed in stations or officers given access to gyms to help them get fit. If they fail, they could be sent on weight loss courses, or given health and diet advice.
While police officers have to pass a physical fitness test to join the force, once they don the uniform, their health is their concern. Many officers pack on the pounds due while because of the stressful conditions and long working hours, but should police departments demand they also stay in shape?
According to Police Chief Magazine, the answer is a resounding yes.
Out of shape police officers not only put the public at risk, but they are also a danger to themselves.
Physical fitness can also protect officers from becoming victims. In the numerous offender interviews conducted by the FBI over the course of the past 10 years, it was learned that offenders typically size up their victims when deciding what they are going to do. Many had difficulty identifying a particular trait or mannerism that made them pick or not pick a particular officer, but they did articulate that the deciding factor was whether or not they felt they could “take them.” If officers appeared fit and conducted themselves in a professional manner, offenders hesitated; however, when officers were perceived as potential targets, offenders capitalized on the situation. Officers need to be cognizant of the image they convey and recognize that their appearance and demeanor in uniform is a primary factor in how others will perceive them.
Protecting the public and ensuring officers are healthy go hand in hand. Many experts suggest police departments institute wellness programs, exercise regimen, and nutrition classes to help officers stay healthy.
What do you think? Should police departments institute weight requirements and fitness tests for officers on the job?