Poll: Should Overweight State Troopers Lose Their Jobs?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
In Ohio, state troopers are fighting a rule that lets those officers who repeatedly exceed weight limits be dismissed from their jobs until they shed the extra pounds.

According to this Associated Press story:

"No too-heavy Ohio troopers or sergeants have been fired in recent years, but at least 11 have received verbal or written reprimands since January for weighing too much, Department of Public Safety records show. One trooper was 48 pounds over his allowable weight, while another was 40 pounds beyond the maximum.

Union negotiators who began contract talks with the state last month want the rule done away with."

Law enforcement is a profession of physical extremes: Police officers and state troopers--in addition to risking their lives to protect and serve the public each day--spend most of their shifts sitting at desks or in patrol cars but must be ready to run, tackle and outmaneuver suspects.

Those who work night or swing shifts--as law-enforcement officers frequently do--face troubles with sleep, and studies have found that night work is hard on the heart. In short, it's not an easy job.

The policy in Ohio dismisses troopers who have failed height-weight requirements for 24 months. Those who don't meet the requirements can be exempted if they pass physical fitness tests.

What do you think about this policy? Should the troopers, who have two years to shape up before being dismissed, lose their jobs? (They can return to work if and when they lose weight.) Should certain jobs have weight limits?

This policy is different from the weight limits imposed for aesthetic reasons (usually upon women). As a law-enforcement officer, a state trooper must be physically active with little notice. However, should a weight limit be imposed in any field?

Is this discrimination? Should the troopers be allowed to keep their jobs?

What repercussions should they face for not meeting the height-weight requirements? And while it's likely not feasible in these tough economic times, should the state be required to provide counseling and fitness or nutrition help for the troopers?

How would you help the troopers shape up? Would you let them keep their jobs? Are there any other fields where you think weight discrimination is acceptable or even necessary?

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Our Military personnel have weight requirements as much for their own safety, as doing their job efficiently. I believe they should help losing weight through education or be introduced to Spark People. After all;, you are talking about Ohio State employees. Report
As a former police officer who has been around both "skinny" and overweight officers, as long as they can perform the job it should be up to them as to their exact weight. Our department put on quarterly physical fitness tests and I believe it was a great motivator for the troops. I believe those tests should be implemented but shouldn't just go by weight. Skinny people can be in poor health just as well as overweight people. Report
As long as the individual can meet the standards to do the job well and effectively, then I don't think it should matter what their weight is. However, significantly overweight individuals may not be able to keep up with the fitness part of the job. Report
MRSEMBERS,you're husband, the police officer, should do the P90X work out with Tony Horton at home and save the gym membership. It has worked for thousands of people, including my adult children. Report
All of the officers knew of this policy when they signed on to the job. This is a job requiredment like any other. If they cannot satisfy that requirement why should they keep their jobs. Report
I do feel that state troopers should be able to meet certain fitness requirements. Their effectiveness depends in part on their ability to meet physical demands. The program outlined above seems more than reasonable. Report
In the military, weight was a concern it was addressed two fold, the accursed BMI, but they also took into account Hip to waist ratio, and lean muscle percentages. I knew some guys who had their body fat calculated via a hydro static, test.
Much like the military, the state patrol has elements of their job that could be very physical and lives could be on the line.
When you look at the cost the State Patrol must invest in training an officer, I can understand why they need to ensure that their officers are in the best shape and health so they can serve as long as possible.
It sounds mean, it sounds unfair. But I have to agree with the state patrol , their officers need to be in good physical shape Report
It seems very clear to me that this is a fitness issue rather than a weight issue. If officers are able to pass fitness tests that simulate both the routine and extraordinary duties of their jobs, weight should not be a problem. Fitness tests should be in place for all officers, not just those who fall above a certain weight limit. Report
It is cruel to dismiss a person from their job because of their weight. Rather than being so harsh to them, find more helpful ways and caring ways to help them and understand their weight problems.

1) are they eating to stay awake
2) are they placed at locations where they are too tempted by food
3) are they eating out of stress
4) is it because unhealthier food is a much cheaper choice
5) etc

It shouldn't be a question of how over weight you are it should be about your physical fitness level. the overweight and skinny ones should have to take a fitness test twice a year to proove they can keep up with the physical demands of the job that way they are not descriminating against anyone Report
I'm sure this has been mentioned already, but if the Military discharges (or won't allow an extension or re-enlistment) someone who hasn't passed height/weight/physical training standards, I feel that all State Troopers should be under the same discretion. The military gives those who are overweight a chance, and a "program" (honestly, not very helpful) to get back to standards within a reasonable amount of time. If State Troopers aren't allowed this same type of rectification, they should be. If they are and they still fail, then I feel they should be moved to administrative positions for another amount of time before losing their job entirely. Report
BMI and weight alone are not always accurate. Even for my job, we were told that we had to have a correct BMI or something close to it. However, there were a number of people that had to get doctor's notes indicating that they were overweight due to muscle and not fat. I think a better indication might be lean body mass or physical ability. They have similar restrictions in the military (althought their expectations are also higher). But it is a physically demanding job and therefore has the right to discriminate against those who do not meet the criteria. The job isn't for everyone and since they do have 2 years, it doesn't seem like an unfair rule Report
I like what Karatekid said: I think the employer should offer free gym passes or such
No,I do not think they should lose their jobs.Incentives for doing better (help getting
there) & possibley higher insurance rates down the road IF they choose NOT to try. Report
Of course there should be weight limits in certain fields. Your not just talking about a guy who works at home depot and can't lift a box because he's out of shape. What good is a police officer who is winded by getting out of his car much less pursuing a bad guy. IMO it's the same for firefighters. They need to carry people out of buildings. They don't just risk their own well-being, but other's as well. I'll praise an officer any day and thank them for keeping us safe. Report
I do think that the job requires a person to be in good shape, but I don't want to see anyone lose their job. The economy is already in bad shape as far as unemployment goes, So why add to that because of a weight issue. Report
Absolutely! I cannot expect my cops to chase down a criminal if they are 100 pounds overweight. And thst is not too far fetched. They should be expected to meet stringent health and fitness requirements. Report
I do agree that police officers (and corrections officers, and state troopers) should maintain their physical fitness within a certain range. This can largely be based on height-to-weight ratio, however, I agree that passing a physical fitness test should override an officer's bmi.

One example: my boyfriend is working on his physical fitness to get hired as an officer and make it through Police Academy. His bmi is definitely higher than most would consider healthy, but he can run, jump, crawl, and whatnot enough to pass a physical fitness test (or will by the time he has to go to the Academy). Sometimes you can't tell a person's physical fitness soley based on bmi. Report
I think they are on the right track with this. It's like they only have to be 'fit' in the academy, and then once they get on the police force, the rules become lax. I think they should be made stay in somewhat-shape. Report
They should have some incentive such a a gym or membership cost so that they can stay in shape. Please don't fired them for being over weight help them!!! Quick someone call the police!! Report
I live in Ohio and I agree, I think they should have to fall into some kind of guidelines. Lets be realistic.. if they have annual or bi-annual physical fitness tests that would prove they can perform. Being given 24 months to comply is more than fair.. that's plenty of time. Report
I agree, they should have to stay within a cetain weight. Some young criminals can run circles around them anyway, so if the officer is over weight, it is just going to make it worse. I think the same rules should apply to fire fighters. They have stessfull, difficult jobs and if they are heavy, it can't be healthy. Report
All police departments that I know of have physical fitness requirements in order to get hired by the department, so, why don't they require the officers to stay in good physical condition (able to perform certain physical feats) while they are officers? Report
I think how I feel mirrors many other comments -
Really I think it should be based all on a physicall fitness test, irrespective of weight! Singling people out based on weight is stupid, but checking that officers are up to the job seems logical.
I would also expect them to be giving plenty of support to help them keep up to this of course. (As I have no idea what kind of fitness facilities or support you can expect, so they might already :3)

I would check officers irrespective of weight. A good example is my army friend who when we had to walk up several flights of stairs was winded before the rest of us, he probably was the only one who had an 'ideal' weight out of the group, but his lack of recent physical activity and having started smoking more after joining the army had taken it's toll on his ability to preform cardio tasks.

I think this is one other reason why more foot police and cycle police makes sense too, it keeps them active alongside all the other benefits to having a visible police presence outside of cars. (Obviously some areas this is more applicable than others, but I've often found that police being about on foot has disarmed many nasty situations in my past at least :) ) Report
As much as I hate discrimination...I want safety, too!

Really...This shouldn't be a question up for debate. Some officers get winded just getting out of the car. I know I've seen some officers around town...and I just hope that they would not be the one sent out to protect me. Sad but true.

I don't think they should lose their job if they are trying and by trying, I mean really working at it.

They, above all, should be setting an example of how it's important to stay in shape. They had to pass a physical exam to get the job...maybe they should have to pass a yearly exam to keep the job...that way any unneeded weight gain should be nipped in the bud early. Report
I personally think that the individual should be supported while trying to lose weight, AND be able to keep his/her job. He/She shouldn't lose his/her job, then once the weight is off, get the job back. Obviously, part of the reason that the person gained weight has to do with the job. So, the person needs to learn how to live healthy and keep the weight off WHILE doing the job. Otherwise, the person may gain the weight back once he/she has his/her job back, and it could become a vicious cycle. Report
I think the waiver is fair. If there are medical issues that would be a variation and should be based on each individual case. Report
I think the policy sounds good. Give someone a waiver if they can pass the PT test, give them time to lose the weight. My sister went through this in the AirForce. She gained alot of weight (100+ lbs) having kids and the Air Force put her on notice, when she didn't pass her PT test . She lost the weight, passed the test and has been running and working out ever since. She looks and feels great. Truth is, she admits, if they hadn't pushed her she would still be her big unhealthy self. Report
as long as they can pass physical fitness tests (at high enough standards that the scores are actually meaningful)...it's a shame that someone wouldn't automatically "be" or want to be in top shape when you know your life is basically on the line and your fitness might mean a matter of life or death litearlly. But you can't really mandate it- what is next, doctors have to be in perfect health and not have any bad unhealthy habits- the ratonale being how can they offer advce and treatment that they themselves don't follow? (of course, If i was in charge of the world NO ONE would smoke or use drugs, all food choices would be healthy only- but also, war would not exist, people would all be successful and get along...guess that is why they call me an idealist...) Report
I personally don't think they should be fired based on their weight. I don't think weight should be a part of it at all. It should be based solely on whether they can do the job they were asked to do. If they can pass the physical fitness test and perform all the duties of the job well then they should keep their jobs.

The article stated if they passed the physical fitness test they would be exempt. All of the troopers no matter what their size should also pass this test to keep their jobs. I wouldn't want some skinny person that can't pass the fitness test out there protecting me. Report
It is their responsibility to maintain a healthy weight in order that they can perform the duties of their job. Just as a firefighter must be able to lift a certain weight and pass endurance tests, so should someone equality (if not more so) tasked with the protection of people. It is part of their job, and thus they should live up to the responsibility or find another job. Report
Their department should implement some type of physical training to assist them. The military does this. I personally think yes they should be required to maintain a healthy weight. I used to work in law enforcement and we were required to do alot of strenous training in the academy and the job itself can put alot of physical demands on the body. Problem was alot of the guys would start putting on weight after making detective and doing desk work. That being said a law enforcement officer needs to be in good shape to ie: run after suspects, scale a wall if need be, many scuffles and situations that require a person to be in shape. My hubs works Probation with youth and there are "fights" all the time that he has to break up. He strength trains to keep in shape for those instances. Report
This isn't a tough or difficult subject at all. They were hired under the condition that they maintain a certain weight standard, therefore they have to stick by it. End of discussion. It's not discrimination, it's a safety issue.
They're endangering their own health as well as the health of potential victims of crime if they can't physically keep up with the demands of the job.
I say, put them on unpaid leave until they can meet the requirements again. Might sound harsh, but it'd definately provide the impertus they need to drop the weight. Report
Tough question. . . . . If, given time to lose and a supervised plan AND if it interferes with the job they do, then yes, medical leave or desk job until they can get back on track. This is a tough one. My husband is a pilot. They have very strict medical standards. You wouldn't want your pilot to have a heart attack in the middle of a flight because no one monitored their health, would you? Same for some heavy equipment operators, long haul drivers, etc . . . . . Also, same for if you are in the service. If you don't keep your weight under control you will eventually be discharged. This was the only thing that kept my brother-in-law from being over weight. Once he retired . . . . well he gained and gained. Report
This is a tough subject. I have a wt problem I have tried several time to loose wt and I have yo-yoed for a long time. Does this mean that I should loose my job if I'm over wt??? This is discrimination. Report
Its not discrimination since they accepted the position knowing what was required of them throughout their career and this policy is enforced consistantly not just to help with budget cuts. Our military has weight and fitness requirement as well but you only have 3 to 6 months to get back on track so 24 months is more than ample time. If the is a medical reason then I believe expectations should be made and a desk should be found.

In the military if I don't meet my height and weight I have 24 months to meet it but I have to make 2-5 of profess a month. This also applies if I pass my PT test. But these troopers get this rule dropped if they pass their fitness test so I don't see the problem. Just pass your fitness test if 40 pounds of extra weight is stopping you from catching a criminal I only see one choice. Drop the weight. Report
I do believe that officers who are seriously overweight should not be out on patrol where they could potentially be harmed by their own unfitness.

However, the current judgments of healthy weight based solely on height are WAY off. Per my height I should weigh about 140 lbs. I can tell you right now I would have to be anorexic, and LOOK anorexic to achieve that weight on my larger bone frame. I had my body fat percentage measured when I weighed 175 and was judged to have the ideal amount of body fat for my age, sex, and height.

Another consideration that BMI loses is MUSCLE. Muscle weighs more than fat, so an officer with great muscles who is in perfect shape, could be judged overweight based on BMI alone. FAIL. Report
The police I see are more than 40 lbs overweight. I can't think how they will be able to do their job that heavy. Plus the danger to their own safety. I deal with alot of stress and it does play havic on sleep, weight gain etc but we still have to find ways to combat all that to be healthy. To say nothing of the respect factor. Do they receive the respect an officer should when their unable to maintain a fit self? Report
I don't think it matters how heavy they are as long as they can still do there job-however if their weights interfering with their performance then yeah I think they should either have to shape up or lose their jobs. They took on a BIG responsibility when they accepted the job-it is up to them to live up to expected job performances just like the rest of us :) Report
I believe the employer could do a lot to help employees maintain their weight and fitness. It's a stressful job. Shift work often plays havoc with sleep patterns, which is a big factor in becoming overweight. And I don't think cops congregate at the donut shop because in their basic training they're all brainwashed into eating donuts; is there support for healthy food options at the station? Do they have fridges, microwaves, vending machines with healthy choices? Does the employer offer fitness incentives like free or subsidized gym passes? I hope the union negotiators and employers look at all possible options together.

There is a statement in this blog that states, they can be exempt if they can pass the fitness test. This is a key point. The military faces the same issue, if you are too heavy and not in shape, you cannot do your job and you put lives at risk. Mandatory fitness training is a way to work around this. So yes I believe, if after two years they are still over the maximum weight standard and cannot pass a fitness test, they should loose their jobs until they can meet the standard. It could save a life, maybe even their own. Report
If it's part of the contract - it should be upheld .
(I also think part of the law enforcement is to be good role models) Report
Oh Good Lord. Leave them alone! Report
If a job description requires certain weight restrictions and physical needs, any employee should held accountable. Yes, I think these officers should be fired after 2 years without complying with their job requirements. Those restrictions are made for their safety as well as the the public they serve. The union representatives would certainly have a fit if the state HP didn't comply with a contract. Same difference in my opinion. Report
No. They should be given a chance to lose weight. Report
I think if someone is morbidly obese it is an issue. However as a former police officer I learned in the Police Academy that you cannot judge a book by its cover. Alot of the buff body builder types did not do well at all with physical training, I even saw a couple of them drop. At that point I spent 1.5 hours a day six days a week working out. When I was hired there was a weight to height ratio. Maybe being a female played into it, but I felt I needed to stay physically fit my life or someone elses could depend on it. My point is you can take the big buff guy who lifts and never does cardio or have the guy with some pudge that may not look pretty but he can run and hold his own. You cannot judge a book by its cover. My exhusband has been a cop since he was 19 he is now 41. He is thin 6'4 and has washboard abs. He smokes never works out and lives on fast food. He is one of the best cops in his district. My teenage son is his clone, both can run on a dime.
If you are very muscular you will weigh more, at the time I was 155 solid muscle and wore a size 6, I am 5'7".
Way to many factors involved if you can perform the physical requirements and you are a good LEO your weight should not be a factor. Apperances can be very decieving. Report
Absolutely!!! We have to maintain specific body composition standards in the military-law enforcement, fire, etc. should have to as well. The only officers whining are the lazy ones. Report
Law officers need to be physically fit. I don't want anyone to lose their job but mandatory weight requirements should be in place Report
My father was a cop. A fat cop. He's retired now, but still enormous. He's at the point where it would be dangerous for him to do cardio to slim down. I wish the force had never let him get that big. Amazingly, he'll be 66 next month and keeps on ticking, while most of his friends, a lot of them thinner men, have passed on. Report
Police officers must be physically fit and able to perform the physical aspects of their job, as well as to maintain their health and withstand the job stress. Their absolute weight is not as important as their ability to meet measurable fitness standards. In order to meet these standards, they should have access to quality physical training facilities and expert advice on fitness, nutrition and health. But if they cannot meet the standards with that much assistance, they should be removed from the job. They should be tested every six months, since once a year allows too much time to get out of shape and then have to try to get back in shape. If they fail, they might be allowed three months to retest, but then that's it. The same applies to firefighters. Report
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