You may not be aware of a long-overlooked law which mandates fitness for all law enforcement officers. Officers must train to achieve high levels of fitness or possibly suffer severe penalties under this law. The law requires a total commitment by every street officer in the nation to achieve a level of physical fitness conducive to survival, while:
• Involved in foot pursuits
• Overcoming suspect resistance
• Fighting to maintain control of their duty weapons
• Attempting physical rescues
• Engaging in close quarter combat armed and unarmed
• Providing effective backup to fellow officers
This law requires mandatory compliance. It is as irrevocable as it is uncompromising. This law allows for no appeal. It is the law of the jungle, ladies and gentlemen: Survival of the fittest.**
Real World Fighting
Every day around the world, police officers are assaulted with fists, feet, elbows, teeth, knives, guns, screwdrivers, clubs, swords, motor vehicles, and even on many occasions their own weapons. These assaults occur in large metropolitan areas as well “peaceful” rural settings.
While an officer struggles to overcome a suspect’s resistance or win a desperate fight for life, that officer needs not only tactical skills, but every bit of strength, flexibility, mobility, and endurance available to them. These commodities only improve with training — conversely, they quickly diminish when someone fails to train.
Most agencies have entry-level fitness standards, but there the requirements for any level of fitness ends precisely when the urgent need to apply these attributes begins. Officers at agencies which do not require re-testing of fitness levels as a career progresses must be self-motivated to continue their personal physical training.
Some Do Train
Obesity in the United States is at record levels and the temptation to live the same lifestyle as the people we serve has led some law enforcement officers to achieve dangerous levels of obesity. Since defending against personal physical assaults are a part of a law enforcement officer’s job description the temptation to become physically inactive must be vigorously resisted.
At this very moment your future adversaries are training hard in prisons all over the nation to be better able to kill you!
If you are training now, do not stop…ever. Over the years as a trainer I have witnessed many younger officers scoff at older officers, who because of their weight, struggle to get up from a kneeling to a standing position, while on the firearms range. “How can anyone let themselves go like that? That will never happen to me,” is the commentary often repeated by young officers.
Then comes the pattern sadly also oft repeated. As these younger officers, in top condition are gradually overcome by altered priorities, complacency and age they begin taking, “training breaks.” Time marches on and the “training breaks last longer and longer. Eventually too many of the scoffing officers become that older officer struggling to get up from a kneeling position on the firearms range, because of their weight.
If you are not physically training now, check with your doctor and start training immediately. Start slow, but steady, regular, and relentlessly plod down the path toward improved fitness. I have known officers, who are in better condition in their 50’s than they were at entry level, because of a commitment made late in their careers to do the difficult work that it takes to maintain the street ready condition of a modern knight.
I experienced street confrontations, foot pursuits, and responded to “officer needs assistance” calls not only in my first, but also my last year of my career. I discovered day one to day last, suspects never “normed” their level of intensity out of respect for my advancing age. Physical training played a major part in my personal career survival.
Fitness training not only aided in my career survival it has also enhanced my life. I highly recommend that every street cop run, lift, stretch and shadow fight as long as you live. Exercise may not stop the aging process, but it allows you to do what you love to do longer and better. Move it and never stop the moving of it, or you will lose it.
I urge you all to follow the example of a colleague of mine, Officer Willard Sill. Willard always stayed fit, active, involved, and rarely could be seen without a smile on his face. He retired from the La Crosse Wisconsin Police Department in 1960 after a full career.
I believe the current average life expectancy of a police officer is around 58. He has easily surpassed that — he celebrated his 100th birthday in March 2012 and he is still smiling.
By maintaining a street-ready fitness level during your career, one payoff may be feeling the supreme satisfaction of running down a grossly-tattooed-hat-turned-baggy-pants-car-jacker and putting him into handcuffs. Another payoff after retirement is the unbridled joy of being able to shoot buckets, hunt, swim, hike, or even just taking long walks to pick wild flowers with your grandchildren.
Be serious in your physical training — your life depends on it now and your quality of life depends on it later.
My fellow officers run, lift, stretch, and shadow fight, for “Survival goes to the fittest” is the law of the jungle and it is a jungle out there.
Stay Safe, Stay Strong, Stay Positive!
** According to Wikipedia, "Survival of the fittest" is a phrase coined by British polymath philosopher Herbert Spencer and widely (but inaccurately) attributed to Charles Darwin. One interpretation of the phrase "survival of the fittest" is to mean "only the fittest organisms will prevail" (a view sometimes derided as "Social Darwinism").