After more than a year in training, more than 20 officers with the Marana Police Department (MPD) took a physical fitness test at Marana High School on July 18.
Marana Police Chief Terry Rozema felt like his department was in good shape, but like any police department, the overall physical fitness level needed to be improved. Not only are fit officers more productive on the job, but they tend to have a better overall quality of life, according to Rozema.
“We know through studies that law enforcement has a pretty low life expectancy,” said Rozema. “Some of it is due to stress, some of it is due to the sedentary nature of the job. All kinds of factors play into that. As much as it is for the public and community, it is equally for the officers and their health and their well being, so that when they get to retirement they are actually able to enjoy their requirement.”
The challenge handed down by Rozema for officers to take part in the added training was on a volunteer basis. Many of the officers accepted the challenge.
“We were looking at something that can improve the quality of life of the officers and after we retire, after we leave the Marana Police Department we can enjoy life, enjoy spending time with our families,” said Officer Scott Criswell.
The program and standards are the result of a year long staff study conducted by MPD Physical Fitness Instructors, Department Command Staff, and Town Legal Advisors. These standards were selected by the Department’s Physical Fitness Instructors and approved by the Town of Marana’s Legal Department because they have been validated as being job related for law enforcement officers.
“Our main goal is to get these people in shape, physically, mentally and emotionally,” said Sgt. Jeff Pridgett, a program trainer. “Not only for our job and their careers, but for their regular lives. Beyond law enforcement they live long, happy lives.”
Not only can officers better do their jobs if they are fit, but they project a better image for the officers. This can actually benefit the officers in the field, as there is a feeling that a suspect is less likely to be uncooperative or violent towards an officer who is in good shape.
Rozema said he would like to make the program mandatory, but legally it has to be a voluntary program. To entice officers to participate, MPD offered officers t-shirts and gift cards and later hopes to offer even more such as shift preferences and extra vacation days.
“I think there is a problem in law enforcement in general,” said Rozema. “We have six cadets going into the academy and they are working their tails off because when you hire people into their profession you tell them that they have to be in shape and you better be working out. Something happens when people get out of the academy, and this is true for many professions, that you become complacent and lackadaisical and a lot of those things go out the window. If when you come into this job you are expected to have a certain level of fitness, I think it is only reasonable that it continues throughout one’s career. “
July 18 was the second session of testing, where the instructors, who are all police officers, can get a baseline to chart future improvement. Earlier in the week, the trainers underwent testing themselves. Standards are set at the 40th, 60th and 80th percentile. A total of 15 officers underwent testing along with seven instructors and a handful of department personnel, last Friday.
Several academy cadets were also training and two paramedics were on hand, out of curiosity.
The 15 officers were tested in an agility course, the 300-meter run, one-rep maximum bench press, push ups, sit ups, vertical leap, and a 1.5-mile run. Before they began they were given a brief examination to record weight, blood pressure and the like.
The fact that the officers went through training together added a morale-boosting benefit to the program that was not necessarily a design of the program.
“I have been impressed with the level of camaraderie,” said Rozema. There is a little good natured ribbing and jabs, but overall it has been a great time to get the department together. The atmosphere here is exciting. It is really bringing people together.”
Many of the officers in the program are getting together to work out. Some are meeting in gyms, while others meet in the park for crossfit-type workouts. Some have even used the weight room at Marana High School. One part of the proposed new police station would be a fitness facility for the officers.