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Starting a Wellness Program at Your Department

Your Department's Needs:
If your department already has an Employee Assistance Program, then you will not necessarily need to add a counseling component. Thoroughly read the EAP's contract. Often times they have agreed to provide services such as educational seminars, 24-hour stress debriefing and group counseling. These services are little known and grossly underused.

Look into non-profit agencies that specialize in working with law enforcement or counselors, nutritionists and fitness instructors who do pro-bono work with cops and their families.

If you are in a college town, see if the university has a health and wellness department that requires students to do internships. Other agencies have access to a nurse or nurse practitioner who is on staff to see all city employees as needed.

If there are people at your department who are already fitness buffs, pay them a monthly stipend and have them get certified as personal trainers and consult with other staff members to develop workout plans.

Sign a contract with a consultant to come in quarterly and do hands-on training on fitness, nutrition and stress reduction. The rest of the year this person can be reached via email, phone or video-conferencing to help people develop workout plans, meal plans, and solve interpersonal problems and other stressors. This also provides a larger amount of confidentiality since the officer will not have to be seen and the consultant.

Get a few officers at your department certified as wellness consultants. This usually runs about $750 per officer, but the certification lasts for two years and can be renewed through continuing education credits. This is much cheaper than hiring a wellness program coordinator at $35,000 to $60,000 per year.

Assess the equipment available and figure out what you really need and what your agency has space for. Nautilus equipment is very expensive and very large. A simple area could include a bench with the leg extension attachment and preacher curl attachment, a squat rack, a 300-pound set of weight plates, and two screw-lock dumbbells. This would accommodate up to six people in average shape working out at the same time with spotters.

See if there is a fitness center in town that will let officers workout for free.

Have all work stations (including patrol cars) checked for ergonomics.

  • Having to spend more time away from their family
  • Feeling like a stranger in a strange land without training on how to use equipment
  • Setting overwhelming goals (I want to put on 20 pounds of muscle by Christmas)
  • Aesthetically unappealing workout environments
  • Dirty locker rooms
  • Lack of a secure place to store their gun-belt etc. at a gym
  • Overtraining
  • Lack of sufficient sleep

  • All or nothing attitude (cutting out all junk food)
  • Too much changed too fast
  • Lack of education about how to make healthy choices and changes
  • Emotional eating
  • Free food is not always the healthiest
  • But nobody else is eating __________
  • Water makes bathroom breaks more prominent

  • People get caught in ruts and life passes them by (You do honey-dos all weekend and don't get to spend time with the family or really relax)
  • Too little time in the day
  • Poor planning (especially for people with young kids)


  • Arrange shifts so that there is a 2-hour overlap at least 3 days a week. Officers come in and workout as a squad. This not only ensures that officers are getting healthier but it also increases camaraderie and reduces absenteeism.
  • Half of the shift goes on duty after roll-call and the other half stays and works out unless there is a super-high priority call.
  • Officers are given a free membership to a club and their attendance is logged in and out by computer. They are given credit for up to six documented hours a week for working out.
  • Set up a buddy system for officers with similar fitness levels and goals
  • Give out 8 hours of comp time each month to the officer who has improved the most.
  • Solicit donations for iprizesi to be given out monthly to the person who is most improved on some objective measure, or who attended all of his/her scheduled workouts.

  • Educational puzzles that, when correctly completed, are turned in for a raffle to win a gift certificate or other prize (movie passes, free dinner somewhere).
  • Provide a weekly menu on departmental e-mail for all of those people who do not feel like making one. This usually runs about $50 per week for the menu and rights for unlimited reproduction within your agency.

  • For parents -- We signed up for a nanny service that guarantees a qualified, well screened nanny at your door within 2-hours of a request. It was quite expensive initially, but the piece of mind and flexibility it gives us (both being on-call 24/7) is priceless. They not only watch the baby, but also do light housekeeping as an added bonus. (The sign up fee is a great present from in-laws).
  • Keep a running list of babysitters and/or house-dog sitters (at least 10)
  • Plan ahead 4 hours one day a week to go out and do fun things. Very little comes up that cannot wait.
  • Get involved in play groups. Many officers I know are married to people who work on opposite shifts. It can be a very long weekend when you are the only parent on duty.
  • My husband's old squad had a rotating pot-luck on the first Saturday they had off each month. Everyone brought something so the host's financial output was less than $20.
  • Another squad meets at a local restaurant each Friday they are off (this can get quite expensive though).
  • If you are lucky enough to have a wellness coordinator, have that person be responsible for coordinating on the calendar and publicizing these potlucks and social events.
  • Try to minimize mandatory fun.
  • Finally, get away from work and coworkers occasionally. This is true for any occupation. Try to develop a circle of friends who share another similar interest like camping, hiking, motorcycles - anything but police work.

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