Detective Lieutenant Barry M. Baker (ret.) is a 32 year veteran of the Baltimore Police Department.
Police physical fitness isn’t uppermost in the minds of new recruits, because most are young and youth promotes the myth of indestructability. Some of you will already be keen on diet, exercise, and fitness activities that will maintain your fitness for years to come
Many police departments do little to stress the importance of police physical fitness through ever decreasing hiring requirements. It’s not the fault of police departments since age and weight have been placed firmly into the category of discrimination. However, in police departments with low attrition rates, and waiting lists miles long, you won’t see that many older and over-weight rookies.
The PC crowd likes to ignore the probably that you’ll face life and death physical confrontations. They’re deep into conflict resolution dogma, and they’re convinced that a police officer should be able to talk anybody into or out of anything. In a perfect world, that would be ideal, but you won’t be working in a perfect world. Police physical fitness will carry you through when conflict resolution fails.
Age, Weight and Height – Police Physical Fitness
If you’re young, and your weight is proportionate to your height, you’ll probably possess the most important physical capability for a police officer – endurance. Upper body strength is important, but there will always be someone stronger than you who is capable of kicking your ass. You’ll run into those ’someone’s’ frequently. On those occasions when conflict resolution fails, your physical endurance should carry you through until help arrives.
The great thing about endurance is that it doesn’t take that much exercise to develop and maintain. I spent the first seven years of my career walking foot posts. Since I worked a high crime area, the walking frequently turned into running down suspects. Talk about a physical fitness program. My assignment had me walking and running forty hours a week every week.
You must always think about encountering deadly force situations, but the frequency of those situations will pale to the number of times you’ll engage in lesser physical struggles. They’ll only remain lesser as long as you avoid sustaining serious injury.
Three Categories of Bad Guys
You’ll encounter three types of people in physical confrontations. First are the ones who simply want to get away from you. The attack will not be prolonged since the suspect just wants to incapacitate you long enough to make good his escape. In most instances, however, this suspect will just go round and round with you; until, the physical endurance of one of you determines the outcome. If this suspect prevails, embarrassment will be the most serious injury you sustain.
The second group will be comprised of suspects who would like nothing better than to hurt you or worse. The third group is the “mental cases” who are unpredictable and dangerous for obvious reasons. When you find yourself in a struggle with a suspect from the second or third category, your physical endurance is more important than you can imagine.
It’s a really bad feeling when you become so exhausted that you no longer have the strength to lift your arm much less throw a punch. I’ve been there a few times, but I was fortunate that the other guy got to the same point of exhaustion at the same time or just ahead of me.
Your state of police physical fitness will always be a huge factor in determining how successful you are in avoiding injury. More than likely, you’ll begin your police career behind the wheel of a police car. The worst thing about a police car is that it makes a lot of police officers lazy. You’ll notice how cops develop a penchant for double parking just to save a few steps. You’ll see some meet a victim and conduct the entire interview without giving the seat springs a chance to expand.
Walking is good for You
Right from the beginning, you should get into the habit of getting out of your car as much as possible. Walking is good for you. I took every opportunity to get out of my car and walk, and it worked well for me. Don’t forget, as your police career progresses, you’ll be getting older. With age comes a natural decline in your level of endurance, and you must develop some regimen to enhance and preserve your level of police physical fitness..
Look at it this way. You’re entering a job where there will be periods of idleness and boredom interrupted by sudden periods of extreme physical exertion. If you spend all the boring time just sitting, those active times are just going to become more difficult as time goes by.
A lot of, or even most, young people beginning a police career don’t see themselves being patrol officers for twenty years or more. The truth is there aren’t enough promotions or cushy jobs available to accommodate everyone. You need to understand that you may have to stay in the real work force for your entire career.
Mind and body is a real concept. As long as you develop the right mental attitudes toward all the cruel and goofy things you’re going to experience, and you give equal importance to your continued physical fitness, you’ll do just fine.
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