Should Cops Be Physically Fit?

imagesCAM5SVKDWhat is the role of health in policing?

Should our police be required to be fit not only mentally and morally, but also physically?

For many years, I carried the torch for police wellness — basic police fitness and health standards — beyond the entry level. I believed that all police should be able to demonstrate a basic level of body strength and aerobic fitness throughout their career.

As you may imagine, not everyone in the organization welcomed my efforts. Yet, as former Chief Mike Masterson of Boise, Idaho, writes below, wellness programs can save police lives.

Looking at the national data regarding deaths of police officers, they are in greater danger of  a heart attack, debilitating effects of diabetes, and traffic accidents (many still do not wear seatbelts) than from the actions of criminals with guns.

I think there is a strong argument that police should be fit and able to carry out the emergency functions of their work throughout their career. One of the principle characters on a popular television cop show in the 80s often remarked — “No fat cops stealing apples!” Which meant he expected his officers to stay in shape and be honest!

Read what Chief Masterson has to say about the cardiac fitness program in Boise:

OFFICER SAFETY CORNER: Getting to the “Heart” of Officer Safety
By Mike Masterson, Chief of Police, Boise, Idaho, Police Department
When leaders in law enforcement think of officer safety, issues like driving, firearms, and defensive tactics come to mind. Yet, a new initiative by the Boise (Idaho) Police Department (BPD) demonstrates the need for life-saving programs to take a much more personalized approach and consider personal health an element of officer safety, particularly heart disease. Boise police officers are now part of a five-year Coronary Artery Disease Risk Assessment Screening Research Study conducted by Dr. Rob Hilvers, Dr. Steve Writer, and Dr. Pennie Seibert.

The program originally included only firefighters, but was expanded in 2013 to include two Boise area police departments—and it’s already making a difference.During the first weeks of the study, a 39-year-old BPD officer was identified as having major arterial blockage in the heart, which was discovered during the annual exercise cardiac stress testing (continuous EKG while running on a treadmill) that was made available to all officers at no cost as part of the study.

The discovery led to immediate bypass surgery to repair the arteries, which were estimated to be 80 and 95 percent blocked. A month later, a second officer in his early 40s, prompted to take the cardiac stress test by his coworker’s experience, found he had a similar condition.

One simple test saved two lives in one month in a police agency of 300 sworn officers. Other tests in the study have proven benefits, as well—just a few weeks ago, an officer learned of a “hole” in his heart through the calcium screen and further medical tests are being conducted. Education, nutrition, exercise, and healthy lifestyle choices are just as important for officer safety as tactical and firearms training. Still, programs that emphasize the need for wellness and a healthy lifestyle have gone by the wayside in many departments.

It is encouraging, however, that the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) has taken note of the large number of officers dying of heart disease and is reviving discussion on the issue…

[To read the entire article, CLICK HERE.]