Chicago's top cop wants fit officers

CHICAGO The test would look at an officer's body fat and weight to determine if he or she is fit to serve and protect.

Currently, police officers earn $250 if they pass a yearly physical, but Weis doesn't believe that system is working.

The mandatory fitness test is not a new proposal.

Chicago police officers are offered cash incentives to stay in shape, but last year only 18 percent took the optional test and passed.

According to a popular stereotype, police officers and donuts go together like cops and robbers. But Chicago's new top cop wants his officers to be exemplary, fit in both mind and body.

First Deputy Supt. James Jackson spoke with reporters Friday about the proposal.

"If they're physically fit, we have less concern about medical time off and their getting injured in the performance of their job," he said.

A program put in place several years ago offers officers $250 each year they pass a physical exam. During that test, officers have to:

1. Perform 37 sit-ups per minute

2. Benchpress at least 87 percent of their bodyweight

3. Complete a 1.5 mile run in a time set based on their age and gender

That exam is far less strenuous than the one required for Illinois State troopers.

But even if Chicago adds more muscle to its fitness requirements, no one is talking about making physical fitness mandatory for men and women in blue.

"I think the main goal here is to promote a philosophy of being conscientious about good health," said Chicago Police spokesperson Monique Bond.

Weis, a former FBI agent, is said to be a fitness buff whose wife is a personal trainer.

"He's the new kid on the block, and he's never performed this job before," said Chicago Police Union President.

Donahue said officers already combat rough hours and strains on their personal life. Requiring them to get to the gym will require more than a health conscious boss.

"We need to reduce the stress factors that contribute to poor health. Some of these are work schedules. So, perhaps, he wants to allow officers to work-out on company time," said Donahue.

The city and police union are in the middle of contentious contract negotiations over everything from pay to work hours, and that could explain why the chief's idea is being greeted about as warmly as a stale donut.

The police superintendent is conceding that veteran officers may be exempt from the fitness requirements.

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