FEATURED IN LEADERSHIP
I go to great lengths to maintain my health and fitness for performance on the job and my overall well-being. I've tried to make physical fitness a priority in my department, but my advice often falls on deaf ears. Now we have officers off for injuries that could possibly have been avoided if preventive measures had been taken. The injury leave time is straining manpower and increasing insurance premiums. Do you have any advice for how to make physical fitness a bigger priority in an agency?
Fit & Fed Up
Dear Fit & Fed Up: Doesn't it just kill you that we still have donut-eating cops out there bringing the whole profession down? These chumps turn my stomach! They walk around in a uniform with a boiler the size of Ohio sticking out over their Sam Browne, and they sound like they're trying to breathe through a straw. They can't take care of themselves, and they certainly can't help you and me if we need a cover officer to come running while we're in the heat of battle with some angry, last-strike felon. Almost as bad is that every fat cop is a walking billboard for all the bad stereotypes the rest of us are trying to break: Cops are lazy. Cops just sit around in their car all day, etc. I could go on, but I'm just getting hot under the collar, so let's move on.
There are two kinds of lazy fat cops out there. The first group is the donut shop guys. At least these guys are honest with themselves and the rest of us. These are the fat jolly cops who know they're a mess and just haven't figured out how to fix it. The second group is even worse. They're the ones that look the same as the donut eaters and are just as useful in a foot pursuit, but you only ever see them eating salad and drinking a diet pop. These idiots always seem to be talking about how they're working on it, but they never seem to lose anything but their dignity. We all know they're chomping fast food by the pound when they aren't around the rest of us, and the lines they give us about exercise are pure bunk. Neither of these groups is acceptable, but at least the open donut eaters still have their integrity.
The other half of this battle is exercise. Like many things in the cop world, we tend to miss the mark on where this argument should be centered. Let's use ballistics to illustrate this point. Cops still argue about which caliber is better, when the reality is that shot placement is what really matters. Don't believe me? Whenever some cop tells me they'll carry only a certain caliber, I tell them I'll go get a much smaller caliber and point it at their head, and that they should let me know if they're scared or not. So far, I've had no takers on that one. We all know that when the pin hits the primer, shot placement is all that matters. The same thing applies to exercise. We still have guys arguing about running vs. lifting vs. circuit training and so on. If you're exercising hard and regularly, you're hitting the 10 ring. Don't get me wrong, a little self-regulation is necessary, and if your biceps are splitting the sleeves on your shirt but you can't run a mile, it might be time for some cross training. The same holds for any cop who can run an ultramarathon but has string beans for arms.
To make exercise a priority at your agency, you need to take a few different avenues. I would hit up risk management at your city/county level and show them the numbers. Every time they lose someone to an injury, it costs them money. They may be willing to do a few things to help, like put pressure on your chief to make fitness more important. I've also heard about some progressive departments where certain activities (running, lifting, biking, etc.) are covered by agency insurance as job-related activities. If someone gets hurt during one of these activities the person is able to consider it duty related. That would also come through risk management.
The next thing I would do is offer help. You can't ram fitness down their throats, but you can organize runs or other PT programs to get people interested. I'm sure you can find a 10k run close to home. Put together a team to run it together and make it worthwhile by having a party after the run. Find a local charity, and raise money for it with push-ups, pull-ups or whatever people get excited about.
Last, you must link fitness to every good job in your department. SWAT and Defensive Tactics should obviously have fitness requirements. You need to get the chief to extend this so people understand lifetime fitness is a job requirement.