If you’re trying to become a police officer, you may be wondering: is it really that important to be physically fit?
The short answer is: Yes, being physically fit is very important to your success as a police officer. Here’s why.
Physical Fitness and Essential Job Function
If you want to be in a field that serves the public, the public has the right to expect that the people who have taken an oath to serve and protect actually have the physical ability to do so.
Your ability to perform the essential functions of a police officer is directly affected by your underlying fitness level.
To put it simply, people who are physically fit:
- are better able to respond when called to do so
- can perform more work with less effort
- are less likely to suffer injury during physically demanding activities
- experience faster recovery following physical exertion
All four factors are key to being able to handle the physical demands of the training academy and are essential for someone who is hoping to work in public safety.
Being Prepared for the Unpredictable
People are drawn to public safety work because it offers an alternative to the 9-to-5 job. The unpredictability and thrill of being on the front line often draws people to this career, but that comes with a responsibility.
Police officers must be prepared to take immediate physical action with little or no warning, no time to warm up or stretch out before they have to respond to a call. Your ability to respond to the situation at hand is essential, and it is what officers are paid to do.
Do you have the physical ability to respond without warning? Can you run, chase, or restrain a suspect, or otherwise be involved in a physically stressful and demanding event. How capable will you be if duty calls?
According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, in 2016 there were 58,627 assaults on police officers reported and 16,677 assaults that resulted in injuries. Multiple factors will determine if an officer is injured while performing their job. One mitigating factor that officers can control is their own fitness level.
Maintaining a high level of aerobic and anaerobic fitness positions officers to be able to protect and serve their communities. Anyone in the field of public safety or law enforcement should have the ability to perform a sustained level of activity for 20 minutes or more. For recruits newly graduated from a police academy, having an adequate fitness level is not a problem. However, too often officers fail to maintain an adequate level of fitness as they age, which can endanger themselves, their partners, and the community at large.
Why Officers Need to be “Combat Ready”
You may be thinking: “Yeah, but not all police officers are physically fit!” This is both true and unfortunate. The military uses the term “combat ready” to describe a soldier’s ability to perform their essential functions. They determine this though routine physical fitness testing (PFT). Individuals unable to pass the PFT are provided counseling, extra physical training activity and support. The goal is to make sure that soldiers can perform at an adequate level.
According to the Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper “If you're not physically fit for combat, then we're not only doing you an injustice, we're doing an injustice to your colleagues and peers as well,” Esper said, explaining that if a soldier can't deploy, that means someone else has to deploy twice as much.
Although police officers are not soldiers, they too must be prepared both physically and mentally to respond to combat situations. Officers who are unfit may try to avoid responding to calls and are often placed in positions where they are less likely to need to rely on physical strength and stamina. They leave it to the younger, more fit officers.
Unfortunately, most law enforcement agencies don’t require officers to maintain their fitness level. The most-cited reasons for not requiring officers to maintain their fitness level: labor relations, liability and cost. It’s time to rethink this! Start by requiring CertifyFit.com.