By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – When police officers and firefighters get out of shape, they are less effective on the job and more prone to injury, disability or death.
Several Northeast Mississippi law enforcement agencies that take that fact seriously sent officers to the national LawFit competition last week in Olive Branch.
Oxford Police (Jeff McCutchen, Joey East, James Owens and Chris Case) placed second, and Tupelo Police (Sam Bell, DeAndre Eiland, John Bingham and Jonathan Walker) placed fourth among four-man teams in the multifaceted competition, which drew teams from as far away as New Jersey.
OPD Officer Jeff McCutchen said the competition relates closely to police work.
“Take the bench press,” he said. “If I’m in a confrontation with a guy and he gets on top of me, I’ve got to be able to forcefully move him off of me.” The competition also includes push-ups, sit-ups, sit-and-reach, pull-ups, a 1.5-mile run and a work performance test.
Several other area agencies also participated in the LawFit nationals – University of Mississippi Police, Mississippi State University Police and Tippah County Sheriff. Mississippi Highway Patrol’s team won first place, as they have several times.
Dr. David Bever directs the National Center for Public Safety Fitness and its LawFit program.
“When these people come out of their respective academies, they’re in pretty good shape,” he said. In most cases, he added, “Once they are sworn officers in an agency, they don’t have to do a single thing aimed at fitness for the rest of their 25-year careers.”
Bever began emphasizing emergency-personnel fitness when he came to George Mason University. Two of its public safety workers had just become permanently disabled in their 40s and another was about to go on disability at age 37.
Bever said one fire department that followed the LawFit program cut annual costs of job-related injuries and disabilities by nearly 60 percent.
Fitness is also a public safety issue, he said, citing Washington, D.C.’s “beltway snipers,” who killed 10 and wounded three others in D.C., Virginia and Maryland in 2002. Before the sniper killings, police had pursued Lee Boyd Malvo after a robbery-murder in Montgomery, Ala., Bever said, but Malvo escaped by scaling a fence that officers could not cross.
OPD’s McCutchen said the LawFit program reflects a well-known slogan among police and firefighters: “More sweat, less blood.”
For more information, contact www.lawfit.org or www.firefit.org.