Height is not a good measure of physical fitness for officers, say Wyoming LE leaders

By Suzie Ziegler

CHEYENNE, Wyo.– In April, the Texas Department of Public Safety issued new physical fitness guidelines that required soldiers to lose weight or face discipline. Under the policy, soldiers must start a weight loss program if their waist is over 40 inches for men or 35 inches for women.

The warrant has sparked heated debate in the Lone Star State and beyond, including in Wyoming where police chiefs have denounced the waistline rule. In interviews with the Cowboy State Daily, several police officials said that while physical fitness standards are important for officers, body size is not the way to measure it.

“Look at a football team,” said Sweetwater County Sheriff John Grossnickle. “Your offensive linemen are in great shape, but they look completely different from a cornerback or a wide receiver. Mere size is not a good approach. There are other ways to determine if a person is physically fit.

Byron Oedekoven, executive director of the Wyoming Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, agreed, “I can show you some big boys circling around a whole bunch of high school athletes. They are certainly not out of shape with their 40 inch size.

Both Oedekoven and Grossnickle stress the importance of staying fit for work. Oedekoven says suspects may be more likely to fight arrest than in the past, making physical fitness essential for officers.

“People are more willing to stab you, shoot you, run you over, and that was unheard of years ago for the most part,” Oedekoven said. “I think officers are very aware that their fitness has a significant impact on their ability to survive and do the job.”

Officers in Cheyenne are in better shape than ever, says former Cheyenne Police Chief Brian Kozak. According to Kozak, the department’s fitness incentives and a change in culture have helped officers stay in shape.

“We allowed in-service training, sparring training for one hour per shift,” Kozak said. “It’s a great incentive.”

Kozak says the department has an annual fitness test and recognition program for officers who improve.

“It’s just positive reinforcement,” Kozak said. “And that makes the difference.”

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