Redefining Fit for Duty


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An officer’s physical fitness is a concern not just because the officers are overweight and might develop a debilitating health condition in their later years. It’s an officer survival issue. It could put an officer at a serious disadvantage when he or she faces a more physically fit bad guy who has the mindset to win.

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Redefining Fit for Duty

  1. 1. 42 POLICE AUGUST 2008Being in the law enforcement andcorrections training field for morethan 20 years and coming fromboth a civilian and Marine Corpsbackground in law enforcement and cor-rections, I have noticed a distinct changein the students attending training pro-grams. Many of them are out of shapeboth mentally and physically.I don’t mean they are stupid or men-tally unstable. I mean they lack mentaldiscipline and a winning mindset. Andwhen I talk about physical fitness, I’m notreferring to the officer who has 20 yearson the force and has bad knees and a badback and has gained too much weight. I’mtalking about officers who are young withjust a few years of duty or even just out ofthe academy who cannot maintain thephysical intensity needed for advancedlaw enforcement training.RedefiningFitfor DutyDave YoungAll officers, especially those workingon and around water, must at leastbe able to swim without flotationdevices to be fit for duty.
  2. 2. 43An officer’s physical fitness is a concernnot just because the officers are over-weight and might develop a debilitatinghealth condition in their later years. It’san officer survival issue. It could put anofficer at a serious disadvantage when heor she faces a more physically fit bad guywho has the mindset to win.The Winning MindsetEven when officers are in shape, theyhave a tendency to dismiss the value oftraining. The mindset of these officershas taken a sharp curve from: “Hey, this isimportant and I need to know it becauseit can prevent me from being injured oreven killed” to “Hey, this is never goingto happen to me, and I don’t have to be inshape because I have all of these force op-tions and tools on my belt.”On the brochures and flyers for theHOMELAND SECURITY STARTS HERE!DON’T LET THEM STEAL IT.$99Quantity DiscountsAvailableFOR MORE INFORMATION 1-888-666-3031www.tremcopoliceproducts.comFor 20 years, this police tool has protected thousands of agency vehicles fromthe liability of chases, fatalities, damage to vehicles, and loss of weapons.Now police canLEAVE THEIRCRUISERSRUNNINGUNATTENDEDfor emergency situationsALLOWS EMERGENCYLIGHTING,... computers, radios, heaters,air conditioners, anddefrosters to operate whilemaintaining neededbattery current.SIMPLE.Fast and easy to usewith our patentedTMcamouflaged system.EASY INSTALLATIONPlugs Right InPOL0808combinedsyst.indd 1Need FREEInfo? Use #20103Need FREEInfo? Use #20037We need to ask sometough questions aboutthe mental and physicalfitness of America’slaw enforcementprofessionals.Continued on page 46
  3. 3. 46 POLICE AUGUST 2008don’t require officers to maintain fitnessonce they are on the job. Sure they have topass the academy, but afterward they canrelax, and relax some do.To make matters worse, today becauseagencies are desperately trying to fill theirranks, some have lowered their fitnessstandards. Sure, they still give tests, butare they really tests in the sense that theyscreen people? Or are these agencies sim-ply going through the motions for liabilityconcerns?Safety is always the main concern forany trainer when conducting training, asit should be. However, in an effort to maketraining safe, the officer survival focus ofthe past is now largely ignored. I advocatecourses I teach that challenge the offi-cers both physically and mentally, I havea special note alerting the students thatthe training is physically demanding. Butmany seem to have very little idea of what“hands-on” training means.Today’s law enforcement trainees tendtohaveaverydifferentmindsetthanthoseI taught back in the ’90s. Back then moreof my students came to the training withmilitary experience or an athletic back-ground. They were prepared for physicallygrueling training and, more importantly,the physical challenges of the job. Manyof today’s trainees lack even basic physi-cal fitness.Part of the problem is that agenciesNEWIn the line of duty,you need every advantageyou can get -Thorshield™Police Duty Glovesgive you the advantage!ULTIMATE FIT ANDCOMFORT PLUSPROTECTIONAGAINSTELECTROSHOCKWEAPONSTHORSHIELDPOLICE DUTY GLOVESNeed FREEInfo? Use #20262Are These CopsFit for Duty?If an officer cannot be sprayed and contaminated with the chemical aerosolhe or she is assigned to carry, is that officer fit for duty?If an officer can’t swim or tread water on the surface for designated periodsof time without the use of a flotation device, is that officer fit for duty? Does youranswer change if the officer works on or near water?If a bike patrol officer is unable to ride a bike effectively on an obstacle course,is that officer fit for duty?If a SWAT officer is unable to operate in a protective mask while handling his orher primary and secondary weapon in a safe and effective manner, is that officerfit for duty?If an officer cannot complete a 30-second bag drill during a defensive tacticsexercise in an effective manner, is that officer fit for duty?If an officer cannot safely and effectively handle a baton, is that officer fit forduty? Would you want to work with that officer?RedefiningFit for Duty
  4. 4. 48 POLICE AUGUST 2008ficer is fit for duty when he or she canperform the job in a safe and professionalmanner that does not jeopardize theirlives or the lives of others.Here’s my definition of “fit for duty”: Ifan officer can safely perform his or her du-ties in an effective manner without jeop-ardizing his or her life or the lives of oth-ers, including other officers, bystanders,even subjects and suspects, the officer isfit for duty.And I submit to you that some agenciesarefieldingofficerswhoarenotfitforduty.Is your agency one of them? Ask yourselfthe following questions:H What does your agency do if an officercan’t pass a test, either a written test or aphysical application test?H What does your agency do if an officercan’t get sprayed with a chemical aerosolin training?H What does your agency do if an officercan’t jump over a fence, run down a sub-ject, and physically control them?H What does your agency do if an officercannot handle and deploy a firearm with-out the use of prescription eye glasses?H What does your agency do when an offi-cer is unable to successfully complete hisprotective mask drills in a safe and effec-tive manner?H What does your agency do when an of-ficer is unable to sustain himself abovethe surface of the water without the useof a flotation device and said officer is as-raising the bar on basic fitness for dutyguidelines for agencies. If these standardsare met, “safety” issues will be readily metas well. And that will save lives.Do You Know How to Win?Training used to be about developingthe skills of a warrior: intelligence, physi-cal strength, physical endurance, cour-age. I tell my students, “If you want to be awarrior you have to walk through hell.” Inother words, train hard and train realisti-cally because nothing is more real than abad guy trying to take your life.How has the shift away from the “war-rior model” changed training? Well, forexample, if your protective equipmentdoes not allow you to strike with the sur-vival power you will need in a real life en-counter, then fundamentally, you are be-ing trained not to hit with the power youwill need to save your life, which meansyou may never know how much power ittakes to win a fight until the moment oftruth. And you don’t want to have to ex-periment during a fight for your life.Sometimes I think that law enforce-ment training has been commercializedin the same way that martial arts train-ing—where you can get a black belt inthree years—has been commercialized.Yes, after completing such a program youwalk away with a sense of accomplish-ment. But have you really mastered any-thing? The answer is probably not.I have attended many instructor train-ing programs that did not physically andmentally challenge the participants. Theypaid a fee; they went through the training;but they were required to exert little or noeffort to pass the course and receive thecertification.Are You Fit for Duty?There’s an important question that Iwant to ask every officer reading this ar-ticle: Are you fit for duty? Don’t BS your-self here. Answer truthfully in your ownmind.What does “fit for duty” truly mean?Is an officer really fit for duty when he orshe cannot complete a [training] task dueto past injuries, medical issues, age, emo-tional issues, or phobias?I would say no. I would say that an of-Need FREEInfo? Use #20288RedefiningFit for DutyOfficers should be exposed to OC sprayso they know how to react when theyencounter the substance in the field.
  5. 5. 49signed to a waterfront area or a boat?H What does your agency do if an officer isunable to operate motor vehicles in a safeand effective manner?H What does your agency do if an officer isunable to accurately deploy his or her nonlethal weapons?H What does your agency do if an officercannot run 25 yards or up a flight of stairswithout being so out of breath that he orshe can’t physically assist the arresting of-ficer in need of backup?H What does your agency do if an officerdoesn’t understand the language beingused in the environment where he or sheis being tasked to work?This list can go on and on. My pointhere is what we call “safety issues” mightmask what they really are, which is an in-ability to do the job.Fit for Duty TestI believe that a good law enforcementtraining program reinforces self-aware-ness and allows an officer to effectivelyconduct personal evaluations to help as-sist with these issues.After reviewing the above performanceobjectives, let’s finally look into a few im-portant questions to help you respond tothis issue.Will this failure jeopardize my life?Will this failure jeopardize the lives ofother officers?Will this failure jeopardize the lives ofthe people we are sworn to protect?Answeringyestoanyofthesequestionsmeans that you are not fit for duty.I strongly encourage you and youragency to adopt a fit-for-duty statementthat supports officer safety first and fore-most. Being fit for duty is not only an of-ficer safety issue, it is the mark of a pro-fessional who is ready to fight to protecthim- or herself, fellow officers, and thepublic.Dave Young is the Director of SpecializedPrograms for the Northcentral TechnicalCollege—RedMan Training, and the Direc-tor of Training for RedMan Training Gear.A member of the POLICE Advisory Board,he has served in law enforcement and cor-rections for the U.S. Marines and civilianagencies.POL0208texshield.indd 1Need FREEInfo? Use #20089Need FREEInfo? Use #20077