When we hear the term physical fitness, most Americans 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 doesnıt mean you need

to be 6ı4² 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 bodyıs 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

such programs.

The length and quality of a police officerıs 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

officerıs health. According to Richard O. Keelor of the Presidentıs 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,

³odds are ten to one that a police officer will die of a heart attack rather than street

violence² (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, ³Can any

department this day in age afford not to have such a program?²

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 workmenıs

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 well developed physical fitness

program can lower