Christopher Swope was GOVERNING's executive editor.E-mail: email@example.com
Cops in Chicago are trading doughnuts for dollars under the police department's new incentive plan that pays them $250 for passing a physical fitness test.
Some 3,000 of Chicago's 13,000 sworn officers took the voluntary test when it was offered last fall. About 2,700 of them passed and got the bonus. The goal isn't just to shake the longstanding image of big- bellied cops busting their blue britches. It's also to save on medical bills. "If we can show a fitter department, then hopefully we can lower our costs in health care," says Sergeant Robert Cargie, a department spokesman.
Police departments typically require cadets to pass a fitness test at the police academy, but not many require officers to stay in shape after that. Increasingly, departments are running fitness clinics or offering perks for keeping in shape, such as additional days off. Chicago's bonus program was part of an agreement between the department and the local police union. Passing scores vary for men and women according to age. A 40-year-old male, for example, must be able to do 28 sit-ups in a minute; bench press 79 percent of his body weight; run 1.5 miles in 15 minutes and 24 seconds, and reach 13.8 inches with his hands from a seated position.
But is $250 enough to inspire the most indolent cops to hit the gym? Union president Mark Donahue doubts it. What's more likely, in his view, is that officers who are already fit are the ones taking the test--and scoring some easy dough.
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