Becoming a police officer takes a lot of determination, discipline and a high level of physical fitness, but once you get the job, there's rarely any requirement to stay fit.
Jesse Ramon, a retired military police officer who served in the Navy and Marines, believes local departments are failing their officers by not requiring them to meet annual physical fitness standards similar to what he had to pass in the military.
"If you're not fit, you're not going to be able to do the job," Ramon said. "We had standards that were put down and everybody felt that it was fair. Nobody complained because everybody had to abide by them."
Ramon said he's seen too many overweight law enforcement officers in San Antonio and he's worried about their health and the public's safety.
"I want to know that when a police officer gets on location, he or she is going to be ready to do their job," Ramon said. "If you're not in shape, how can you expect that man or that woman to do their job correctly, safely, to be able to save somebody's life or to be able to run after a criminal?"
San Antonio Police Chief William McManus said he expects his officers to be fit and ready for duty.
"The majority of our guys and ladies are physically fit and they stay in great shape," McManus said. "If you're not physically fit enough to do your job, then that's a problem."
McManus said while cadets have to be physically fit to become police officers, that's where the requirements end.
"Once they're on the department, there is no requirement they stay fit to a certain level," McManus said. "Most of your municipal departments do not have mandatory requirements and I think for a department like ours that doesn't, we do a real good job in incentivizing folks to stay fit."
SAPD does has a voluntary incentive program where officers can earn time off by passing physical fitness drills once a year and the number of officers participating in that program continues to grow each year.
"You report to the academy and there's a number of drills that they're required to participate in," McManus said. "You reach a certain level and you're given eight hours leave. You reach another level and you're given 16 hours of leave."
In addition to that program, McManus points to the department's SWAT team as an example of physically fit officers. The department recently started holding public workouts with the SWAT team as a way of recruiting more physically fit people to join the department. SAPD also has a running team that competes in fun runs and other events around the city.
McManus said he believes the majority of his officers are in shape. Those that aren't, are offered help.
"Certainly, we expect that you're physically fit enough to do your job and if you're not, then we're going to send you to a 'fitness for duty' physical and see what the issue is," McManus said. "If there are health concerns that prohibit someone from doing their job completely, then we would take some type of action."
Bexar County Sheriff Susan Pamerleau admits her deputies could be in better shape.
"I would tell you overall (that) I'm not satisfied with where we are," Pamerleau said. "Certainly, we can do better, and part of that is incentivizing that behavior until we can move closer to having it as part of the job."
Since taking office in January, Pamerleau has made some changes to promote more healthy lifestyles at the sheriff's office.
One of her first steps was renovating an old workout room, complete with first-class machines and weights. She also added healthier choices at the employee cafeteria and she's started a weight-loss challenge. The most recent winner lost 28 pounds in two months and earned a check for $1,200. The program is voluntary and those who participate put in $20, which goes into a pot that makes up the prize for the winner.
"It's important to incentivize these kinds of things," Pamerleau said. "The biggest prize is better health, better fitness and better overall physical condition."
Pamerleau, a retired Air Force major general, said she would like to have military-style annual physical fitness requirements but that could take time.
"In this business, physical fitness should be a requirement," Pamerleau said. "Because often it’s not the normal day-to-day activity, it's the emergency, it's the situation that comes up that they've got to be able to respond to and if they're not ready then we're not doing our job."