Lets face it, are we all truly "fit" for duty day in and day out? If we were to take a look in the mirror, I think the answer, for most of us, would be no. But what does it mean to be "fit for duty"? Merriam-Webster defines the word fit as "suitable for a specific purpose". To break it down even further, what does it mean to be suitable? Does that mean being par for the course? Acceptable at best? Yea, the common dig on police officers is that we were just the school bullies that skated by in high school and couldn't make it in college. So it may be easy to just settle for being "suitable" in life, but not when the community you serve expects perfection out of you.
Maybe we can change that definition when it comes to police work to really encompass what is needed to push that cruiser at 3am to your fourth domestic assault call of the night. What is expected of you when you arrive on scene to the active fight, needing to solve 5 years of a broken marriage in a matter of 30 minutes or so. As police officers, we are expected to be perfect. Mess up, and you end up on CBS Evening News with Norah O'Donnell. The keyboard warriors will dismantle your work with the pleasure of a pause and reverse button.
What have you done to prevent a negative outcome on the streets? I'm not going to be cliche here and give you some kind of "pillars for better performance" or some kind of graphic to pull you in and make you think I have it all figured out. Because lets face it, its 2021, does anyone REALLY have it all figured out?
In full disclosure, I am not a therapist, or a life coach, or a psychologist, or anyone with any kind of certification in the health field. What I do have is experience. Life experience. Not a whole lot of it, but enough to feel like I can spread some knowledge to hopefully help someone who may be going through some stuff. So here it goes. I'm going to give you a little insight into different factors that I feel make a good officer fit for duty. Today, I will speak about the importance of physical fitness and a little story that made me truly understand the impact physical fitness has on my job specifically. You may agree, you may not agree, you may think I'm insane and ignorant, you may think that I am just plain stupid. Whatever you may think, just know not everyone is "one size fits all".
This one is probably most commonly thought about when the term fit for duty is used. For me, fitness became a pillar in being ready each day when I was fresh out of the academy and in FTO (field training). If I remember correctly, it was mid to late February around 11pm. There was about an inch or so of sleet/snow mix that was easily made slippery with every step I took. I get dispatched to back another unit on a possible domestic assault in progress. When I check the address, I realize that I was rather close to the call and the little hairs on the back of my neck stood up. This was my first in progress call while on my night shift rotation of FTO. With my training officer in the passenger seat, I high tailed it down the street and arrived in the neighborhood of the call. Dispatch had given a rough description of the suspect and stated that he was leaving the house right as I was pulling up to the area. As I approach the residence in my patrol car, I notice a male leaving the house as described. My FTO, without missing a beat, opens his door and leaps out without me bringing the cruiser to a stop. Just like that, he was chasing after the guy on foot. Somehow, I manage to simultaneously put the car in park, unbuckle, and open the door as I leap out of the car, not knowing 100% what I was doing. I just remembered my FTO telling me, don't ever let me leave you in the dust. Long story short, we chase this guy for maybe a quarter mile MAX. During the chase, I passed my FTO like a sprinter in the olympic trials. I found myself almost alone at one point in the chase, looking back and not really seeing anyone. Finally I get within reaching distance of the suspect and down both of us went. Got the guy into custody without any issues and suddenly look up to find myself alone. Where did my FTO go? Did I chase the wrong guy? Is this a joke? Fortunately and unfortunately none of those were true. My FTO came huffing and puffing like he had just run the Boston Marathon. To jail the guy went. It wasn't until a few days later that I thought about it in depth. As always, as cops we go through the gauntlet of "what ifs". What if the guy would have turned around and wanted to fight? What if they guy had a weapon? Would I have been in shape to handle the threat? Would I have been able to take care of the situation without my FTO? What if my FTO was actually my backup? What if I needed to use deadly force? All those questions flooded my head.
What that story taught me was that staying in shape doesn't only help YOU with your job tasks, but it may directly affect how well you can help your teammates. When asked, will you be able to be in good enough shape to not be a liability? My FTO was a liability that night and it clearly showed. How effective would he have been had he actually shown up if something went wrong? Most likely, I would have had to drag him out by his vest if shit really popped off. Physical fitness can simply help you from being a liability.
Morale of this story? Being out of shape can potentially cause you to be a liability and possibly take someones life. Would it be justified in the eyes of the law? Maybe. But if you can avoid it, why not work towards it. Just my two cents. Again, you can disagree, think I'm dumb, or just not listen. But if you've read to this point, I commend you and appreciate you. Hopefully you can follow along as I just randomly type things with no real outline. Just a guy with some ideas and random insight. See y'all next time!