AUSTIN, Texas — More than 200 state troopers will have to lose weight by the end of the year or face discipline under a controversial policy the Texas Department of Public Safety enforces to limit the size of the officers.
According to documents obtained by The Dallas Morning News, men with waist sizes over 40 inches and women over 35 inches are now required to track and share their weight loss efforts with DPS.
“I will not drink more than one diet soda a day,” one officer pledged to a fitness enhancement plan obtained by The News. Another pledged to “drastically reduce consumption of sugar in all its forms” and avoid fast food.
Officers who do not downsize by December — even if they pass all other required physical fitness tests — may be denied promotions and overtime, or removed from enforcement duties.
In the latest round of testing, most officers who failed the waistline passed the department’s running, rowing, and weightlifting tests, suggesting that state troopers with strength and proven endurance can be reduced simply for their size.
The possibility of removing officers from the field comes as the department struggles to recruit and ramp up activity on the state’s border with Mexico under Gov. Greg Abbott’s Operation Lone Star.
Department heads insist that a neat midsection is needed for officers to have a commanding ‘presence’ when dealing with the public. For years they have pushed for a crackdown on overweight soldiers, citing health issues like obesity and cardiovascular problems. But the coronavirus pandemic has slowed the full rollout of the waistline policy until this year.
As of April, 213 officers — out of about 4,000 total — had failed the waistline requirement, according to the department. Only two of the 213 also failed the physical fitness test for which officers can choose between rowing tests, a combat fitness assessment, or a standard assessment that includes a one-and-a-half-mile run, push-ups and sit-ups.
Critics say the height requirement is arbitrary, unfairly harsh on women and not directly related to an officer’s duties.
“DPS continues its plan to harass, discipline and even fire exceptional officers for failing to meet its physical fitness testing standards and appearance standards,” the Texas Department of Public Safety Officers Association said in a statement. communicated.
The association filed a lawsuit to end the waist circumference policy in 2019, but the lawsuit was dismissed because no penalty had been applied. It’s unclear if another challenge is on the way.
A DPS spokesperson said the state agency “continually evaluates all improvement programs.”
“Recommendations and potential changes will be discussed at the August 2022 (Public Safety Committee) meeting after the department analyzes data from two full test cycles,” the statement said. Officers must undergo physical fitness tests in the spring and fall.
Per department policy, officers whose waist circumference exceeds the limit can still pass using other measurements based on height and weight or body fat percentage. We don’t know how many did.
When officers are deemed too tall, they should write and share with the DPS a fitness improvement plan outlining their diet and exercise goals. Most plans require agents to submit documentation of their efforts – failure to follow the plan can result in consequences. The News obtained copies of several DPS plans through an open records request. The names of the officers are redacted, but several describe the challenges they are trying to overcome.
A state trooper worried about inflaming old injuries sustained during his military service. But he has pledged to document regular runs in his neighborhood with a cellphone app and track progress “by getting his waist measured weekly.”
Another officer took to taking regular walks and sharing evidence that he restricted sugar several days a week.
Agents are bound to follow their plans. By Dec. 1, those who fail waist circumference or physical fitness tests will no longer be eligible for promotions and could lose overtime pay or be reassigned, depending on the department’s implementation schedule.
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