AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Public Safety Commission made changes Thursday to the Department of Public Safety’s fitness policies by relaxing, but not eliminating, controversial “command presence” rules that set limits around the waistline of the soldiers, according to an approved resolution.
Richard Jankovsky, president of the Association of Department of Public Safety Officers, spoke out Thursday against command attendance rules. He said the policies have become a source of “frustration” and “stress” for commissioned employees. Addressing the committee, he referred to a Dallas Morning News April report that found more than 200 DPS employees had passed their physical fitness test but faced potential disciplinary action for being too tall.
Command attendance rules stated that men’s height should be under 40 inches and women’s under 35, as per policy.
“The DPSOA argues that if an officer passes the physical fitness test, their waist circumference should not be relevant. Therefore, we ask the commission to eliminate the command presence policy,” Jankovsky said. “Is a policy that removes law enforcement from a law enforcement role for no other reason than how good it looks for Texas or good for Texans?”
Before the policy changed Thursday, those who failed to meet command attendance standards would be placed on a fitness plan and could face other consequences, including loss of promotion eligibility, prohibition of wearing a DPS uniform during secondary employment, removal from the execution role and loss of overtime, according to The Dallas Morning News.
The Commission approved three changes to its policies, including a 2% allowance on all command presence standards, including measurements, according to the Commission.
The rules were also changed to ensure that failure to meet command presence standards would not prevent an employee from obtaining promotions or secondary employment and would not result in reassignment to non-enforcement duties. of the law or the loss of overtime opportunities, according to Freeman Martin, Deputy DPS. Director of Homeland Security Operations.
The Public Safety Commission is a governor-appointed board that oversees the Texas Department of Public Safety and state troopers. Current fitness policies stem from Senate Bill 616 passed in 2019. This expansive law was based on recommendations from the Sunset Advisory Commission to improve DPS. The bill included a provision requiring the DPS to adopt a fitness program that would comply with certain state laws and “accepted scientific standards and meet all applicable labor and employment law requirements of state and federal government,” according to the bill.
Later in 2019, the Public Safety Commission passed a resolution outlining its “Health, Fitness, and Command Presence Policy.
“The objective of the program is to support and assist officers in maintaining a high degree of physical fitness and good health by providing periodic assessment and evaluation,” according to the policy. “Command presence – maintaining a high standard of physical fitness and professional appearance – is an essential part of officer safety. Most importantly, officers have a responsibility to their families for day-to-day safety and longevity. »
The DPS rolled out the new Command Presence Policy, collecting data over two years to assess improvements in the physical fitness of DPS soldiers.
DPS program supervisor Michael Harper said the program was a success and there was a 99.6% compliance rate last spring. Harper said individuals can get a waiver for fitness tests if they have medical issues such as pregnancy, medical issues such as surgeries or if they have a military deployment. He said 1.8% of the agency received a waiver.
Martin said a person is considered “in compliance” with DPS fitness policies if they have a waiver.