Health & Medicine

Controversy swirls over British plan to fitness test police officers

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A proposal in England and Wales would see police officers forced to take an annual fitness test after a survey found 53 percent were overweight and 1 in 100 were morbidly obese. (Photo by Terry via Wikimedia Commons.)

There's a debate raging in London, where people are talking about the physical fitness necessary for police officers.

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A recent survey found that 53 percent of officers were overweight and one in 100 was morbidly obese. New proposal in England and Wales would require officers to undergo an annual fitness test with penalties that could include paycuts as a way to, critics say, "rid the service of fat officers." This sort of proposal has been tried in other countries, but it's controversial in the U.K.

Simon Reed, Vice Chairman of the England and Wales Police Federation, said his organization isn't against all fitness testing, but is concerned about whether it needs to be implemented across the board. He pointed out that officers who are authorized to carry firearms and who are tasked to deal with public disorder are already required to pass fitness tests.

"Certain people doing roles, fitness would not be an issue," he said. "Our main concern would be about health. We did have a driving service looking at making officers healthy, rather than fit. I think that's probably more appropriate."

But he said he does understand the controversy and attention being cast on the question of fitness. But he said they remain concerned about health for all officers.

"Clearly they have a program to keep their officers fit, and we'd welcome that," Reed said. "We don't have any of those facilities or programs here."