Back when I was with the Los Angeles Police Department we certainly had to maintain height and weight standards that today’s law enforcement personnel don’t seem to possess. While I may be disparaging many law enforcement officers, that is not what this article is about. It’s more of the focus on the health of each officer on the beat and how it affects the public as a whole.
Over a 5-year period, a joint collaboration, known as the Buffalo Cardio-Metabolic Occupational Police Stress (BCOPS) study, by the University of Buffalo and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) examined law enforcement personnel during that time. Led by John M. Violanti, the researchers found out that the stress, shift work and more helped to create very unhealthy conditions for police officers. The outcome discovered were that over 40% of law enforcement personnel were obese, which was much higher than the general population of 32%. Over 78% were overweight or obese. 25% suffered from metabolic syndrome.
All of this showed that police were more likely to have heart disease, diabetes, cancer and more at a higher rate than the general population. Furthermore, other studies showed that obesity and stress also affects cognitive function. Sleep suffered due to the stress and this only makes things worse as it becomes a vicious cycle. Less sleep leads to higher stress levels and obesity.
It’s no wonder that we see so many officers who have become the brunt of jokes due to their large size. While it may be funny to some, it really shouldn’t be. We all want our law enforcement officers to be able to function at peak levels, mentally and physically. Because of their bad health, they probably function at much lower levels than the population as a whole.
What can be done?
I would suggest that law enforcement officers start to institute self-care. If they don’t want to appear to be weak and refuse psychological help, then that is simply ignorance on their part. Get it! Next, start an regular exercise program. This is especially important in law enforcement. I remember the days when I’d be driving in my patrol unit, at a low key, then all of a sudden a code 3 call would come in. Heart rates jumps fast and red lights and siren going full blast. That kind of up and down day plays havoc on one’s body. Many law enforcement personnel tend to hit the local bar to wind down. This not good to reduce stress. Exercise trumps alcohol all the time. So does mindfulness meditation. If you’re a police officer and don’t think meditation is tough enough for you, then you don’t really understand it.
Nutrition is another important factor to help with this obesity crisis among our police officers. Most of the time after roll call, we’d go hit the local donut shop to chat. Yes, we got donuts too. That sugary junk only makes things worse. It help increase stress and pack on the pounds. Health suffers more. It’s time to take action on your health, if you’re a police officer. And if you’re around them, tell them that there are things that can be done.
We all have a responsibility in this. We want fit police personnel. We want them to be better able to cope with stress so that they can make better decisions. Overloaded police officers have decreased judgment in making decisions. And obese officers simply don’t have the stamina or fitness level to engage in a foot chase.
There’s much more that what I was able to write about regarding this issue. I certainly wish that each police officer that reads this will start to take control of their health. Do it for yourself first, your family, and the public that you serve.
America’s #1 Mind-Body Transformation Expert, author of Mind Your Own Fitness and an expert in tactical fitness