Can a Fat Policeman Protect You?
Policemen save lives……every day. Back in July of this year I covered the obesity crisis hitting our local firefighters, professionals who also save lives every day. Clearly, a fat firefighter is at risk for personal health issues, and he's certainly not in the best shape to fulfill his professional responsibilities – which may mean the difference between saving a life, or not. It comes as no surprise to me that policemen are facing the same weight crisis. I walk the streets of New York on a regular basis and I see lots of hefty policemen walking the beat. I often wonder if they would really be able to outrun a perpetrator who mugs or rapes someone. I also wonder, if rules regarding weight should have zero tolerance when it comes to professions where size determines performance…..especially when lives are on the line.
A recent article in the New York Post suggested that New York’s finest had become New York’s fattest. The author suggested that, “these cops need to be a little more gut-less,” as in lose the pounds now!! The author specifically focused on cops in the Community Affairs Division, and he pointed out that they were clearly in no condition to chase down a suspect. He interviewed a source who said that these cops sit a lot, and (I assume) they eat a lot when they sit a lot. Foods of choice apparently include Twinkies (and probably donuts, fast food, and loads of liquid calories). These guys apparently dread exercise, but new Inspector Ellen Chang, who happens to be a triathlete, has taken note of the weighty problem, and is not backing down. According to the reporter, she has gone ahead and outfitted the East 12th Street headquarters with a stationary bike, treadmill, Stairmaster and loads of free weights. Apparently she also drops loads of hints to the thirty officers.
The cops have still been seen carrying in bags from Dunkin Donuts (though I just heard the chain is now offering lighter choices on their menu). In the New York Post article, one cop was quoted as being unhappy with the pressure to exercise. Are you kidding me? I come from a world where in order to keep my license active, I have to take CME (continuing medical education) credits yearly and attend lots of boring conferences. Those are the professional requirements I face, and I don’t get to play a bargaining game. I help people get healthy and stay healthy and my value and expertise lies in me staying on top of my education and new science. Lives are at stake. It would seem to me that police officers, who need to run and react quickly and have mental clarity at all times, require a certain level of fitness and health. Their job performance should mandate yearly health screenings and if they fall short, they should have to go on leave until they improve their testing parameters. I have to assume that policemen, similar to firemen and soldiers, need to run at a certain speed, right? So after they make the force, it seems inconceivable that they aren’t required to maintain that key component of performance, among others, even if they are assigned a desk job. When a crisis hits, all policemen would have to pitch in. Lives will be lost if they can’t perform basic duties that come with the job. Speed and command of body movements are at the top of the list. And excess weight gets in the way.
If my observations are correct, then there are currently many, many officers walking the beat and patrolling neighborhoods all across the nation, who are overweight or obese. They are first line responders. They need to be in top shape for the demands of the job. I am hard core on this one. I hope Inspector Ellen Chang doesn’t just make suggestions. I hope she enforces what would seem to be reasonable demands on these cops to get in shape. That means daily exercise and better food choices and regular sleep habits. Maybe it requires an investment in part-time trainers and a nutritionist. Maybe they need some basic cooking skills since over-eating is probably happening on the home front too. I am also a big fan of providing ongoing mental health support, since the job of a policeman is as stressful as it gets, and stress eating is likely part of their weight crisis formula. I think this is a health alert moment for a serious community-at-large problem that needs to be handled swiftly on a citywide, statewide and even national level. I hope it happens.
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