By Suzie Ziegler
CHEYENNE, Wyo. — In April, the Texas Department of Public Safety released new fitness guidelines that required troopers to slim down or face discipline. Under the policy, troopers must start a weight loss program if their waist measures more than 40 inches for men or 35 inches for women.
The mandate sparked hot debate across the Lone Star state and beyond, including in Wyoming where police leaders decried the waistline rule. In interviews with the Cowboy State Daily, multiple police officials said that while fitness standards are important for officers, body size is not the way to measure it.
“Look at a football team,” said Sheriff John Grossnickle of Sweetwater County. “Your offensive linemen are in great shape, but they look completely different than a cornerback or a wide receiver. Mere size isn’t a good approach. There are other ways to deem if a person is in physical shape.”
Byron Oedekoven, executive director of the Wyoming Association of Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police, agreed: “I can show you a couple big boys that run circles around a whole bunch of high school athletes. They are definitely not out of shape with their 40-inch waists.”
Both Oedekoven and Grossnickle emphasize the importance of staying fit for duty. Oedekoven says suspects may be more likely to fight arrest than in years past, making physical fitness essential for officers.
“People are more willing to stab you, shoot you, run over you, and that was unheard of years ago for the most part,” Oedekoven said. “I think officers are very conscious of their physical fitness having a significant impact on their ability to survive and do the job.”
In Cheyenne, officers are in better shape than ever before, says former Cheyenne Police Chief Brian Kozak. According to Kozak, department fitness incentives and a culture shift has helped officers stay in shape.
“We allowed on-duty training, workout training for one hour each shift,” Kozak said. “It’s a great incentive.”
Kozak says the department has an annual fitness test and recognition program for officers who improve.
“This is all positive reinforcement,” Kozak said. “And that makes the difference.”
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