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Career physical fitness standards

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By Ralph Mroz
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A vigorously discussed subject in police circles a decade ago was that of career physical fitness standards for police officers. The subject seemed to fall off the radar following the terrorist attacks on September 11th and the plethora of new law enforcement topics and concerns that resulted from them. Nonetheless, the idea stayed alive, with more agencies placing a premium (literally, with monetary bonuses) on physical fitness, and with high-profile stories about agency heads insisting that their officers be fit (LAPD, Chicago and Winter Haven, FL for example).
There are arguments for and argument against career standards. Let's take them one at a time, with the "for" arguments first.

Arguments for career standards
When you really need a cop, you usually need physical intervention. Here's an old academy question for you: what makes a police officer a police officer? The badge? The gun? Nope. It's the arrest powers. That is, only a police officer can deprive a fellow citizen of their freedom. Your mayor doesn't have this power; neither does the governor; even the President doesn't - only a police officer does. So what makes a cop a cop is that he or she can arrest someone. Anyone can write citations; anyone can write reports; anyone can perform investigations. But only a cop can slap cuffs on someone. Now, arresting someone is a physical activity, and one in which much of the danger of the profession lies. It is during an arrest that you are most likely to get into a physical confrontation with your suspect. Common sense says that you'd want to be in good physical shape to do this, and common sense also suggests that your agency would only want to have physically fit officers doing arrests. So when you are really a cop (when you're arresting someone), you are engaged in strenuous (or potentially strenuous) activity, and physical fitness counts.
If you needed to be fit to get into the academy, then why not be fit now? Police academies used to have physical fitness standards and many still do. Presumably these standards exist because some reasonably smart people decided that cops should be fit. If being fit is a requirement of the job, then it's a requirement of the job. To contend otherwise is to argue for eliminating fitness standards for academy entrance to begin with, and few people would take that position.
Out of shape cops are embarrassing. This is, I hope, self evident.
Police officers are supposed to be role models. Also self-explanatory.
Fat cops are a danger to themselves. If you get into a foot chase, or just a high-stress event, with a fat cop, you'd better hope you remember CPR, and that there's a de-fib unit nearby. This is just basic health: being fat makes you much more susceptible to heart attacks under stress.
If they are a danger to themselves, they are a danger to you. If your corpulent comrade is the guy you're relying on to help you run the suspect down, make the arrest, or return fire effectively, and he goes down, it's not good for either your survival or your success.

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