How Fit Do You Really Need To Be To Be A Police Officer?

Thanks to Hollywood, we're all aware of the stereotype of the police officer sitting in the local coffee shop, steadily munching on a donut. But what this image leaves out is the fact that, to become a police officer, most candidates actually have to undergo rigorous physical training and take a challenging fitness test (via Go Law Enforcement). The new policeman or policewoman is strong, fit, and in great shape.

Although the specific requirements vary from department to department, all hopeful police officer candidates have to pass a Physical Ability Test, or PAT (via National Testing Network). The commonly used basic test includes a 1.5-mile run, which must be completed within a set amount of time (usually between 12 and 15 minutes), a minimum number of sit-ups in one minute (between 27 and 40), and a minimum number of pushups in one minute (between 14 and 33), with the minimum requirement for each activity varying depending on the gender and age of the candidate (via New York State Police). Some departments include other criteria on the test as well, including dragging a 150-pound dummy, and/or an obstacle course (via Police1). 

Unfortunately, many officers don't maintain their fitness levels

So, in order to become a police officer, you clearly have to be in top physical condition. The problem in many cases, though, is that maintaining that level of fitness is a different story altogether. According to Certify Fit, most law enforcement agencies don't require their officers to keep up a certain level of fitness. Unfortunately, police officers are not immune to the greater societal trend of weight gain and obesity, and research shows that a majority of officers are overweight and much more likely to die of weight-related illnesses than from causes directly related to policing (via Medical Daily). Some police departments (though far from all) are responding by trying various tactics to encourage their officers to stay in shape. Assistant Chief Jeff Bryan of the Garland Police Department in Texas said, "I think it's important for all of us to keep the weight down and stay in shape — especially [with] this job. [W]hen you're in a life or death struggle, you've got to win that fight" (per Medical Daily).