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  • Obese cops a risk to the public

    Obese police risk safety, coroner told

    By Malcolm Brown. Sydney Morning Herald 25 July 2001.

    The police force was letting obese people into its ranks and one young policewoman's short and overweight physique could be linked to the fatal shooting of an unarmed man at a domestic dispute, a senior officer said yesterday.

    Acting Detective Chief Inspector David Maguire attacked declining fitness standards in the force as he gave evidence at the inquest into the killing of 25-year-old Mr Rayden Stephens, who was shot three times by Senior Constable Stephen DeLorenzo at Bondi on February 7 last year.

    Senior Constable DeLorenzo says he lost confidence in the ability of two fellow officers to save his life as he wrestled with Mr Stephens.

    Inspector Maguire, who investigated the shooting, told the inquest that Probationary Constable Naomi Randall had done as much as she could to assist her colleague, given her experience, but her physical condition had not helped.

    Constable Randall, with only four weeks' experience, had twice hit Mr Stephens in the thigh with her baton, without effect, but she had not used her capsicum spray.

    Inspector Maguire said he had formed a view that there were general problems of fitness among prospective police officers. Questioned by Mr Philip Biggins, for the NSW Police Service, he said he based his opinion on his observations and on talks with staff officers at the Police Academy.

    In previous years, if an aspiring police officer was overweight, they would not have got into the service.

    "However, the body fat [standard] has been lowered to a level which lets people who would be categorised as obese enter the police service, and I believe it is an issue that is associated with fitness," Inspector Maguire said.

    He said he believed the level of fitness among people entering the service was so low that "the safety of some officers and members of the public is compromised".

    Mr Biggins: "Do you also have the view that the level of fitness of NSW police officers has dropped so as to be closely related to the ability to do their duties?"

    Inspector Maguire: "In this matter, I believe it was, yes."

    Constable DeLorenzo had claimed Mr Stephens was pushing his head under water in a garden fish pond.

    Inspector Maguire said Constable Randall and Sergeant Don Howard could have done more to help Senior Constable DeLorenzo before he pulled out his Glock pistol and fired the fatal shots.

    Sergeant Howard had made three radio calls for help but had not used a baton or spray.

    In a videotaped record of interview played yesterday, Sergeant Howard said he had tried to intervene in the struggle by grabbing Mr Stephens by the arm. But he said Mr Stephens had hit him twice on the side of the head.

    He had seen Constable DeLorenzo and Mr Stephens fall into the pond. Constable DeLorenzo had called on him to get some "back-up".

    When he had called for help, he had seen Constable Randall hit Mr Stephens with her baton.

    "He said something to her and she sort of stepped back a bit," he said. "I think the male person [Mr Stephens] said, 'What are go going to do, shoot me?'" He added: "Then I heard the racking [cocking of the weapon] and three shots."

    The hearing resumes today before State Coroner Mr John Abernethy.

  • #2
    Was Howard obese? How come he didn't help more?

    Was DeLorenzo obese? How come he was getting beat up & had to resort to shooting?

    I can understand if obesity contributed to the problem if she was unable to chase after someone or get through a doorway to get to someone but whacking someone with a baton & then stepping back is not an obesity problem, it's a fear problem.

    I'm not supporting obesity in law enforcement. We have that problem here & I have long promoted continueing exercise programs. Our recruits have to run a certain distance in a certain time but once you're hired you don't have to run again for the rest of your life.

    Then there's the time I was in charge of assigning off-duty overtime & we had a job providing security at the high school. One high-ranking official told me not to assign a certain heavy-set officer to work there despite the fact that only three officers had put in for the job. He said that his weight made him "not the role model" we would like to present to high school kids. I asked why it was okay to put him in a patrol car in front of a city of 33,000 that included the high school kids when they weren't in school. He backed down & angrily said to assign him if I needed him.

    Either set the standards right or don't gripe!


    • #3
      First, overweight and obese are not the same thing.

      Second, I guess there is much more to this, since nothing in this story tells me anyones weight had anything to do with this.

      Third, coroners deal with dead people. What makes him now an expert on fitness or law enforcement.

      Lastly, I've had big, muscular guys that were sort of useless in a fight, but I don't see anyone trying to run muscular guys out of LE.

      Based only on what I see here, I see things besides her weight as being the problem. Number 1 of them is training.


      • #4
        I am a big obese porker. If someone I have to help was getting beaten up, if I could grab the guy very likely I could restrain him. I have picked some people up and tossed them. Of sourse I could not do that to everybody though. This story to me has left out some stuff. And another thing. This was a cop shooting someone? Why was he carrying a gun without a round chambered? That's how I carry mine, but a glock sitting in your pocket without being holstered is an accident waiting to happen with a round in the chamber. For the cops who have those nice safe holsters it doesn't make sense.

        [ 07-25-2001: Message edited by: Mike Sullivan ]


        • #5
          I am not a LEO but it would seem to me that, if you have to qualify to shoot, then your personal fitness should be qualified at least twice a year.
          I did see an officer that was so big, he leaned against his car, sweating profusely. He just wiped his forehead, leaned against the car more then got in his car and drove off. I remember thinking I sure hoped he didn't answer a call to my house where I needed help immediately.


          • #6
            Part of the problem is really determining a legit fitness standard. A lot of depts. use the Cooper test, which I personally think is a crock of bull. So what do you have a guy do? Run 2 miles? Bench press? Push a car? Obstacle course?

            It's not a real simple thing to test.


            • #7
              Well, maybe a good idea would be to get someone who is in reasonaly good shape run and then the others have to do his/her time or better. I know, a nightmare to enforce!


              • #8
                I didn't see from this story how it was anyone's weight that kept them from helping the guy out. Sounds more like they were skeered!

                "I'll just stand back here and slap you with my baton. Hmm...that's just made him angry, I'll move back some more."

                "Oh! My partner needs help. I'd better call for help. Hmm help isn't here yet and my partner still needs help. I'd better keep calling for help."

                I'd have been real tempted to shoot those two a-holes who sat back and didn't do anything!!

                I had a partner once that was pretty fat. Once we were looking for a guy and I hop in fence to check the back when I am set upon by three huge Chows. They begin to ry to eat my legs for lunch and I begin spraying them with my OC which stuns them for a second, I kick on of the others...and I am expecting my partner to hop over and give me a hand.

                I am waiting...waiting...I look back and he is on the other side of the fence holding his flashlight on the dogs for me so I could see where to kick, I guess. When I look back at him, he says, "You alright?"

                By this time, I relaize the spray isn't working that well other than making them close their eyes for a second and I whip out by baton and start a pinata and fight my way back over the fence!

                Now my partner wasn't one to get scared...he was just so fat, he couldn't make it over the fence.

                Had to buy new pants and everything...of course no body who looked at me gave me any **** for the rest of the night!

                Most PT tests I've seen don't really test job related fitness. I believe that street officers should be fit, but I also know a few old heads who are WAY out of shape but serve very imporant roles in admin or other positions.

                There are also quiet a few out of shape old heads that I would rather go in the door with than some of these PT studs. The old heads have their head screwed on straight, they don't let their mouth write checks that their butt can't cover, and when it is time to throw down, they don't play...they get to bizness!


                • #9
                  Wow, you were lucky you weren't chewed up, Sparky! But, I bet you earned a lot of respect. Fat or not, your partner should have at least TRIED to get over that fence. I can't believe his adrenalin didn't kick in.
                  I hope you aren't with that same partner? My husband is a big man. He's overweight a bit but BIG. (6'5"). I once saw him jump the neighbors fence when he saw the 2 year old neighbor fall in the pool and no one was there with her. It wasn't easy. He just ran back and heaved himself over the fence, then rolled when he hit the ground. Then, he jumped up, jumped in the pool and got her. Your partner should have gotten over that fence, fat or not.


                  • #10
                    Nothing less than tough military standards should be used to screen potential police recruits. Nothing looks worse than a police officer with a pot belly.
                    ************************************************** *********


                    • #11
                      #1, military standards, for the most part, aren't that tough.

                      #2, until some guys start getting paid to work out, it won't happen.


                      • #12
                        The best police officers I know fitness is a lifesyle thing.

                        This should hold true for applicants as well.
                        ************************************************** ********


                        • #13
                          I think the gentleman has a personal problem with over weight people to make the assumption that her ability to help him was due to her obesity. It seems i would want a heavier person swinging a baton on my behalf. Heavier the harder and all. I think she was scared and froze up.

                          The physical portion of being a police officer should be a test you take twice a year and if you fail, Back to the academy or a strenous physical training class. If you pass, a nice little incentive for maintaining standards would be nice.
                          "To each his own"


                          • #14
                            Apparently, some of you have never been in charge of training.

                            Some depts. are big on training and make time and money available for the it to happen.

                            In the rest of the world, money and time are thin. I have enough trouble getting guys to the range since they have to go on their time off and they have to be paid for their time. Inevitably, they will have vacation, court or any other number of things. It's bad enough that I know of many depts. that only qualify once a year.

                            Now, we want to add 2 more times a year where we have to get them together and test them to some subjective standard of "fitness"? What is fit anyway? Is it the author Jim Fixx, that wrote one of the first books on running to be widely read, then died from a heart attack? Is it the pro athlete that dies in practice from a heart attack? Do I want a guy that can run long distances, one that can bench press twice his weight or do I expect them to do both? Will I do the right thing, which is have the SAME standard for people doing the SAME job, regardless of their gender or will I have to do the politically correct thing and make it different depending on plumbing?

                            Do I like the image of fat, out of shape cops? Hell no. But, like Sparky said, there are some of them I'd choose over a lot of gym rats too. I guess in the midst of all this rant is the point: "Fitness" is subjective and testing for it will not be as easy as it sounds.


                            • #15
                              I agree with you on that, Nite. As I said to Sparky, his partner should have gotten himself over that fence somehow. It sounds like almost laziness on his part.
                              If my 6'5, slightly overweight husband can heave himself over a fence, this guy should have too.


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