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by Peter Moskos

September 26, 2014

Cops and fitness

The fifth in a series from Sgt. Adam Plantinga's excellent 400 Things Cops Know: Street-Smart Lessons from a Veteran Patrolman:
There are uniformed cops on the street who are grossly overweight. Their prominent bellies make their equipment belt hang so low it seems inaccessible to them and they can’t chase a suspect more than a block without collapsing. To them, a five-foot tall fence they need to scale might as well be five hundred feet.

In my current department, it is said that we have an officer who once dropped his gun and was too fat to bend down and pick it up so he just waited until a concerned citizen came along who retrieved his firearm for him. How can this be? Chalk it up to years of less than salubrious living, cumulative stress, drive-through Chicken Fingers, and indifference.

There are incentives for staying in shape on some police departments in terms of extra off-time awarded, but there are certainly no penalties, so once you’re out of the academy, you technically never have to exercise another day in your life. Is it fair to the general public that they are protected by such gelatinous first responders? No, it’s not. But police unions tend to have a lot of juice, and they would never go for a system that penalized overweight

But even given that, you know that some of the more rotund officers are among the best investigators. A detective with 20 confidential informants who can pick up the phone after a fresh homicide and get a line on the murderer in ten minutes is worth a dozen Cross Fit uniformed officers, even if he is packing 75 extra pounds and wheezes frequently.

But if you are someone who regularly responds to hot calls, some basic level of fitness is necessary. If you throw one punch and then are immediately ready for a water break, it’s time for some soul-searching. You have to ask yourself, if you were in physical peril and called the police, would you want an officer like you to be the first one on scene? If your answer is a resounding no, it’s time to get off the street and into police administration, investigations, or maybe retail.

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