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How One City's Police Officers and Firefighters Reduce Health Costs and Earn Bonuses

Updated on October 28, 2012


Police Officers in the US carry a burden of public stereotyping exacerbated by Hollywood and the media from the Keystone Cops of the Silent Movie Era to today's newscasts and TV dramas.The portrayal is one of fat cops sitting in donut shops and/or setting up and accepting payments for corrupt activities.

In the 2012 film Wreck It Ralph, a main character visits the world of of the video game Sugar Rush. All the characters and venues of the game are made of candy and sugar syrups. Inside that game, the character Ralph is pursued by the town's two police officers - two talking donuts with firearms and motor bikes: a cake donut with icing and an iced long john that together bring to mind the comedy team of Laurel and Hardy.

Police officers really do not want to maintain the stereotype that they are fat donut eaters that cannot protect the public. At least one police force in America is turning that stereotype around. Further, an increasing number of US States are holding a Police or Protective Services Olympics.

A fading pastime...


The Post-WWII Physical Fitness Movement, 1960 - 2010s

For decades, the American public has heard about the benefits of physical fitness in mental and physical health at school, in public service announcements and media play, and through their physicians. First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move project took the concept deep into our school systems, but first was President John F. Kennedy's Council On Sports and Fitness from the early 1960s. In the 1990s began the Healthy People Movement across our nation.

In the 2010s, at one city has increased the physical and mental health of its protective services employees through voluntary physical fitness activity. In addition, Columbus OH had reduced healthcare costs associated with their insurance plans for these employees to the extent that it pays workers at the top levels of a defined fitness rubric $900 for maintaining their physical fitness. A large majority of Columbus police officers actually earn this bonus since 2011 and they maintain voluntary individual physical fitness programs.

How Much Physical Fitness Does CPD Have?

In 1911, the Columbus Police Department was pleased that 1,300 officers out of 1,903 (68.4%) took the annual fitness test.

Of these, 1,289 earned the top annual fitness bonus offered by the Department and the City of Columbus: $900. They did this by participating in the Department's annual voluntary physical fitness test.

We all thank our innovative mayor, Mayor Michael B. Coleman for suggesting that useful incentives be offered for physical fitness among our police officers.When the union contract was last negotiated in 2008, the fitness incentive plan went into effect. All officers hired after 2008 must take the annual test, but it is still voluntary for everyone else. The Police Training Academy classes emphasize fitness, but the lifespan of the job now requires it for the new-hires of 2009 and beyond.

The Police Department maintains an onsite gym in its training academy for its members that is free for them to use.

The Fire Department maintains its own fitness criteria and examinations, including monthly weigh-ins; as do the State Highway Patrol, and many other police and fire divisions among cities and towns in Ohio.

CPD Entrance Physical Fitness Exam

CPD Entrance Exam for Physical Fitness, Examples

Age 29 or Younger
Age 40 to 49
300 Meter Run (roughly 2 city blocks)
62 seconds
74 seconds
Situps in 60 Seconds
Maximum # of Pushups Completed
300 Meter Run
70 seconds
95 seconds
Situps in 60 Seconds
Maximum # of Pushups Completed (straight legs)

The Annual CPD Annual Physical Fitness Test and Cash Awards

Cash Awards Per Fitness Level:

  • $300, $600, and $900

Events by Criteria Per Gender (M, F) and Age Group (29 or Younger, 30-39, 40 - 49, 50 and older).

  1. Sit-and-Reach Test: A specific number of inches.
  2. Bench Press: A specific total-body-weight percent.
  3. Leg Press: A specific total-body-weight percent.
  4. Situps: A certain number competed in 30 seconds.

CPD Annual Fitness Exam Participants


Joining a Police Force

How to Join the Police Department

This website describes the Minimum Qualifications for joining the Columbus Ohio Police Department as an offer trainee. Aside from educational and age requirements and background checks, the CPD requires Physical Fitness Standards, including the cardiac stress test, for entrance into the local training academy. However, a study guide to use for all of the requirements, including suggested training to meet the physical standards is provided to interested individuals on the website. Once employed, officers can use the gym at the training academy for maintaining their fitness and earning cash bonuses on annual fitness tests.



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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 5 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      I am sorry that you do not understand. The program saves tax dollars and costs us less each year, with savings being higher than total bonus payouts in 2011, even with almost all of the officers receiving bonuses - no tax increase necessary. The cost of firing unhealthy/less productive employees and training new police is MUCH more expensive than the bonus plan, which is actually saving tax money. Both major political parties are happy about it here. Our first female Chief of Police is ecstatic about the cost savings and the productivity of her department.

      The money for bonuses comes straight out of the savings produced in reduced insurance premiums for the city and other closely related costs. So, we could have either 1) less healthy employees or 2) healthier employees for the same amount of tax dollars, without a tax increase at all. In fact, we can afford to hire more officers now because of this program - that's how much savings we are seeing.

      The union did not even think of the idea - Mayor Coleman thought of the plan. Private companies, on the other hand, that pay only part of health/medical premiums for their workers, have begun to charge less-fit/healthy employees higher insurance premiums. These people get fired for poor work eventually and turnover hiring cost is high.

      This fitness program of the Mayor's is working well and massively.

    • profile image

      Southernmapart 5 years ago

      I find it abhorrent that government employees, paid with tax dollars, are given a bonus. They are employed to do a job and they either can, or cannot perform satisfactorily. It is insane to pay tax dollars to an employee for "proper" personal lifestyle.

      Do unions demand that these bonuses be added to compensation totals for retirement benefits?