Jul 1016

Fit for Duty: Physical Fitness and Law Enforcement

You cannot swing a cat these days without running into a story about how obesity is a problem in this country.  Whether it’s Michelle Obama’s crusade against childhood obesity or claims from the military that our collective chubbiness is a national security threat, the conundrum of the American muffin top is everywhere.

The same is true for law enforcement.  A recent USAToday article cited the difficulty local departments are having recruiting officers who are fit for duty:

Ronald Smith, chief of the Lawton (Okla.) Police Department, said about 15% of applicants to his department this spring failed an initial agility test, including push-ups, sit-ups and a quarter-mile run. “Used to be nearly 100% passed the agility test,” he said.

Capt. Doug Shoemaker of the Jefferson City (Mo.) Police Department said “a noticeable number of people” failed the physical exam in the two most recent tests. “I don’t know that I have seen this … as much as I have now,” he said.

The need for physical fitness in law enforcement is obvious.  A 2008 article from Police Chief magazine argues the need for institutionalized physical fitness programs for officers, citing both benefits to officers and agencies: 

“Officers stand to profit from an improved ability to perform job functions, reduced stress, and better physical and psychological preparation. Agencies stand to benefit in terms of efficiency as well as fiscally. Officers are less likely to be injured or retire on disability, thus reducing the costs of disability payments and the hiring and training of new employees. […] By implementing an exercise program, agencies also reduce their liability by ensuring that officers are prepared to handle tasks while controlling the possible risks and their associated costs.”

Now, Corpus Christi is offering its officers up to four days off based on their fitness scores.  Chief Riggs hopes to expand the program to civilian employees.

Progressive departments across the globe are taking it one step further, making physical fitness a requirement not just for new recruits but throughout their careers.  As noted in a recent Safety at Work blog post:

  • The Victoria Police Department (AU) now requires officers to pass bi-annual Operational Skills and Tactics Training courses for the rest of their careers.
  • South Africa police officers will be required to maintain the uniform size issued upon academy graduation. 
  • The North Wales Police also requires all operation staff to undertake annual fitness test, the first police force in Britain to do so. -

The take-away for our readers who aspire to a career in law enforcement is this: a certain level of physical fitness is required for police service.  So, forego the donut, opt for the skinny bagel, and GET MOVING.  Most fitness tests involve good old fashion running, sit-ups, and push-ups, so NO gym membership or personal trainer required. 

To get a sense of the fitness requirements of agencies across the country, check out our physical fitness playlist on You Tube

What are you doing to get (or stay) fit for duty?

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