cans associate it with
athletic ability, including brute strength and sheer muscle. One who sees physical
fitness in this way has been misinformed. To be physically fit doesnt mean you needOrder now
to be 64 220 pounds and have rippling biceps. Although strength is a part of physical
fitness, it is by no means the only or even the most important area of consideration.
Physical fitness can be defined as: the ability to adapt to the demands and
stresses of physical effort.
There are a number of components making up physical
fitness. These are, cardio-respiratory endurance, flexibility, body composition,
strength and power, speed, agility and coordination. If a body does not get enough
exercise, the bodys functions will deteriorate. In other words, the amount of physical
stresses your body can take reflects the amount and quality of exercise you do. I
would say a police officer is physically fit when his or her condition has a positive
impact on performance, productivity, low absenteeism and health care costs. In
this paper, I will show that the level of fitness an officer is at will directly impact the
above mentioned factors.
I will also show how some agencies have implemented
The length and quality of a police officers career, and for that matter, his life, is
dependent on the actions and conduct of the individual. Things like improper eating
habits, smoking, drinking excessively and physical activity are detrimental to an
officers health. According to Richard O. Keelor of the Presidents Account on Physical
Fitness, approximately 60% of all deaths in the United States result from the diseases
of the heart and blood vessels- diseases that are associated with physical inactivity
(Fraser, 1986). In the law enforcement community, he states that the problem is even
worse, especially in the areas of heart disease and lower back problems.
A lot of officers go to early graves as a result of physical and mental stresses
they deal with over the years. Anderson (1986), in regards to the problem, states that
work experiences such as; chasing suspects, struggling with drunks, working nights
and sitting for hours in a squad car eating junk food usually does not catch up with an
officer until they least expect it.
Studies have shown that the single most contributing factor in the early deaths
of law enforcement officers is probably the lack of regular exercise (Anderson, 1986).
Police Chief David Thompson of the Atlantic Beach, Florida Police Department states,
odds are ten to one that a police officer will die of a heart attack rather than street
violence (Anderson, 1986: 32).
With all the given facts, it is easy to see that physical fitness programs are a
must for all police departments. As with any other new program in a police
department, the question will be raised, due to budgetary constraints, can we afford a
physical fitness program? In my eyes, the question should be rephrased as, Can any
department this day in age afford not to have such a program?
Whatever the cost of a program, it should be weighed against the cost of
absenteeism, health insurance, medical bills and disability.
Fraser (1986) reports that
a 1981 national survey revealed that heart attacks among middle management
personnel alone cost industry $700 million annually.
Many studies, including those done by the United States Secret Service and
the Ohio Highway Patrol, have shown strong evidence of cost savings after a physical
fitness program had been implemented. Fraser (1986) reports an 18 to 42 percent
drop to absenteeism, a 4 to 11 percent increase in worker productivity, improved
morale, less employee turnover, and reduced health care costs.
The police department of Glendale, AZ. has showed some remarkable, direct
benefits as a result of a physical fitness program. In 1985, the city received a $70,170
refund to its major medical insurance company.
In 1984, the refund amounted to over
$225,000 because of reduced claims. There was also a similar savings in workmens
compensation premiums (Lesce, 1985: 28).
In another instance, involving the Grass Valley, CA. Police Department, the
seventeen member force were noted to have a loss of 191 days due to job related
injuries between 1976 and 1980. This came before physical fitness was a mandatory
requirement. A review of post-mandatory physical fitness implication, between 1980
and 1985, reflects a loss of only 23 days due to job-related injuries (Mouser, 1986).
This a very significant turn around and shows how a .