One of the first things I noticed when I moved the United States was the amount of police officers that were overweight. It was then that I realized that the depiction I had seen in the movies was true- they clearly lived on a diet of donuts and coffee! After this first impression of humor subsided, I actually became worried about my safety. I say this because: How can an overweight policeman protect me, or anyone else for that matter?
In October 2012, I asked Houston Mayor Annise Parker that very question, and here is what she answered:
I am not saying that all police officers are out of shape and considering that they all went through an academy and training, even the unfit ones must have been active at some point. By no means is an overweight cop less important than a fit one, but if that cop is already great- imagine his full potential if he were healthy and fit. I want my police officers to be healthy and fit because they are responsible for my, and our safety. Ask yourself this question: can a police officer who is 50 lbs overweight truly perform his duties to his best abilities if your life were in danger?
In many problematic situations, a police officer doesn’t need to pull his gun out but rather needs to physically intervene to reach a resolution- are our cops fit enough, on average, to perform all these tasks? We all know the differences between a person who is in shape and one who is not: strength, endurance, cardio, self-esteem, better control over body and emotions, and self-assuredness. All these qualities ensure that a police officer does not over-react to a situation of distress and better controls his reactions without pulling a gun.
The job of a police officer is a very stressful one, and mental stress manifests itself physically. Over a period of time, this stress can build up to such large proportions that causes both mental and physical imbalances. Such a person would have a short temper, be physically out of shape, have delayed reaction times, and could become paranoid and aggressive. This can lead to a dangerous situation where a small incident can cause a large reaction with unwarranted death.
I urge all the police officers in the US to exercise weekly 3-4 times, to focus on a balanced healthy diet, and have an outlet for their stress such as prayer or meditation. Recently, the FBI released the statistic that 80% of America’s police are overweight. Rather than this being a slight, I hope that we can open a productive dialogue on the best ways to keep our police force active, fit, and performing at their best. Police officers have a noble role in society by keeping civilians and themselves safe- I simply hope that they can feel and perform at their best for the benefit of society. Police officers should be a great example to our children and ourselves on how healthy lifestyle can help you better protect yourself- and others- in any situation.