Among the many insults police officers find themselves having to deflect, one of the oldest and most enduring is the apocryphal belief that cops are somehow addicted to donuts. As fans of the acclaimed HBO series “The Sopranos” will recall, this widespread notion even received mention from aspiring gangster Christopher Moltisanti when he described a large gathering of police officers this way:
You ain’t seen this many cops lined up since the centennial of Dunkin’ Donuts.
There may be a grain of truth in Moltisanti’s comment for, in my experience, the grand opening of the first 24 hour donut shop in my patrol area (circa 1970) was, frankly, a cause for celebration. Previously, those working the graveyard shift had to content themselves with the occasional stale pastry from an all-night diner. This new place, though, presented a vast array of always-fresh temptations, albeit with commensurate challenges to police department weight and fitness requirements.
This trip down the memory lane of unhealthy eating was brought to mind by the recent news that the Texas Department of Public Safety has relaxed their physical fitness standards for Troopers. While emphasizing that physical fitness and command presence are inalterably linked, the new policy permits an extra inch of leeway on waist measurements (41 inches for men and 36 inches for women). Those not in compliance with standards must enroll in a fitness improvement plan, which includes exercise goals and nutrition diaries, along with a recounting of actions being taken to improve their physical fitness.
The police agency from which I retired (the New York State Police) also views physical fitness as an important element. During my career, though, the method for insuring compliance was far more punitive than restorative in nature, requiring those whose weight was not in proportion to their height to submit a monthly memorandum detailing their progress toward compliance.
Widely viewed as a tool for harassment rather than improvement, these submissions (during the era before women joined the NYSP) were referred to as “Fat Boy Memos.” And though their stated purpose was to report progress toward improved physical fitness they often reflected, instead, the writer’s creative writing skill. One such memo, for example, detailed an overweight Trooper’s progress toward meeting his height-weight goal this way:
I did not lose any weight this month … but I grew an inch.
If memory serves, the writer’s boss was not amused.