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The Biggest Loser Brings Up a Tough Question for One Reader

Credit: laverrue

You know how we’re always watching and Tweeting live during The Biggest Loser? Well, this season there are two contestants who we kinda/sorta love (well, before they did this): Dan and Don. Dan and Don are twins. They also share the same profession: They work as police officers. And this is where the reader question comes in, at what point is weight not just about your health and vanity, but also about your profession and how well you can do it? I know this is a touchy subject and in no way would I ever want to take rights away from someone because of their weight, but the reader asked if there should there be a weight limit or a physical to pass each year for those in more physical civil service jobs, such as law enforcement and fire fighters.

Now, I know that the military requires a physical fitness test, as do many fire and police departments, but according to my sources, it’s kind of left up to each city to decide what they require. Not to mention that different jobs mean different qualifications and, obviously, expectations.

But. The reader has a point, in two ways:

“These people put their lives on the line every day for our safety, and a high number of them are unfit and overweight. Shouldn’t we give back by asking that they get help staying healthy, so they can protect us?”

So, now, we put the question to you:

Can’t see the poll? Click here to weigh-in on this touchy civil service question.

As always, feel free to discuss in the comments…interested to see what you guys think! —Jenn

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  1. Valere says:

    Great poll, another thing to consider is that most civil servants get pensions. If they have to leave their job early because they can no longer perform that job, or pass away before their retirement kicks in, they have invested years in a job planning on that pension for when they retire and for their family, only to lose it.

  2. Courtney I says:

    I work for a government in HR, and am pretty familiar with a variety of different organizations.

    To the person who mentioned pensions – those are going away nearly everywhere. Most governments have realized those are not financially feasbile long term, and are moving towards a retirement plan that is very much like your typical 401K plan.

    There are so many facets of being a law enforcement officer, and being physically able to do the job is a big one. Some departments have physical agility requirements, and others do not. There has been a slew of legal battles that has gone on around this, and it’s key for departments to make sure that their programs, if they choose to have them, are not discriminatory and are actually tied to the requirements of the job.

    It’s not a black and white issue, as usual! 🙂

    Many departments that I know of have voluntary programs around fitness and health and may provide incentives to their officers to meet standards. These are easily defensible by law, and do not have any consequences tied to not meeting standards, or not participating.

    The appearance of a “fat cop” doesn’t usually leave a citizen with a confidence that he/she could protect someone if necessary. Looks may be decieving, so we shouldn’t judge based on that alone. But that doesn’t change public perception, and I’m sure many departments are faced with this issue. I wouldn’t agree with the original reader who said “many” of them are unhealthy. The population of that group probably pretty much reflects that of the general public, and I’d even wager that they have a lower percentage of overweight and obese people. Remember that it’s not any easier for a cop to lose weight or get fit than it is for you or I. They have very sedentary jobs nearly 98% of the time. It’s that other 2% that is the issue.

  3. Heidi A says:

    My husband is a police office and it is ABSOLUTELY essential to me that he stay in good shape. During his academy training, they taught them that a criminal decides to resist and/or fight based on a couple of things, one being the appearance (not just fitness) of the cop. Is their uniform rumpled? Do they take pride in themselves? Are they in physical shape? When they can answer NO to all of the above, then the fight is usually on. My husband runs after people almost every night and I can’t imagine sending him out there to do that without the best arsenal he has – his stamina, speed, and health. It isn’t just about them protecting their families – it is about protecting themselves and coming home every night. I feel like it is the responsibility of the agency to create a standard and plan for their officers – to keep them SAFE as well as keep in them in a condition to best protect us civilians…it is a THIN blue line after all…not a chubby one. 🙂

  4. Valerie says:

    @ Courtney, they may very well have a mostly sedentary job, but those who have jobs that demand a certain amount of physical exertion should be able to perform that job. I think we owe it to them to give back to them and their families by asking them to stay on top of their game so they can stay alive.

    As for mentioning pensions, regardless of your retirement plan, if you cash it in early to pay for doctor bills, or die early you still have little or nothing for retirement or your family. I only mentioned it as a reason to stay healthy.

    Notice the original post said unhealthy, not fat, many people who are “thin” are not healthy and could not pass a stress test. Size does not mean you are fit!!!

  5. courtney says:

    I wasn’t trying to say that losing out on their pension because they had to cash it out early was ok. Just that old-school pensions are not the norm anymore. And people in all sorts of jobs have to leave them because of inability to perform their job duties (physically). It’s certainly not specific to cops. In fact, we see a much higher incidence of this in very physical jobs such as custodian, maintenance tech, parks tech, etc. There is no desk duty for them to go to when they can’t perform anymore. It’s very sad to see this happen to someone, whether it’s a result of their own poor lifestyle choices or because of plain old bad luck!

    And of course cops need to be physically fit. My point was that they, like most people, have a job that requires them to be sedentary all day. Is it any wonder they have to battle weight gain? They work 11-12 hour shifts, where they sit around most of the time (office, car, etc) with potentially a few more physical moments during their shift. Then on their days off, they are trying to cram the rest of their life in. Of course they can be active then, and many of them find a way to do it. But that kind of schedule doesn’t really lend itself to being a real fitness buff unless they put more effort in than someone who works 9-5, IMHO. I know I struggle with fitting workouts in when I’m tired, or whatever, and I don’t work 12 hours a day. They are ultimately the people who have to be responsible for their health and their ability to do their job, just like you and I. I agree that they ought to be in good shape, and able to perform all of the essential functions of their job, which may include chasing someone, or restraining someone, or being very physical. However, I don’t know that mandatory requirements is the answer.

    And the reason I pointed out appearance is because that is all you can see when you look at a cop. Healthy, not healthy, there is no way to make a judgement aside from looking at them. I’m sure glad my worth in my job isn’t based in any way on my appearance, and they are definitely judged, non-stop, on being fit, or clean cut, or whatever.

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