The worst of all deceptions is self-deception.
EARLY this year—before the onslaught of the coronavirus pandemic—Senator Panfilo Lacson lauded the Philippine National Police (PNP) leadership for reviving what he considers as his ‘best legacy’ to the institution, saying the fitness policy for cops would benefit everyone because it is a ‘win-win’ policy that would have a positive impact on the whole police organization and the public as well.
Lacson was PNP chief from 1999 to 2001 and he personally led his men in physical fitness regimens in his staunch belief that police personnel would be the first to benefit from the policy by way of being healthier.
“Para sa kanila ‘yan,” the erstwhile PNP head honcho said and in implementing this, many pot-bellied police officers had their waistlines reduced to a point that they became proud and confident of wearing their police uniforms once more. But most importantly, the sight of fit and trim police officers pounding their beats instilled confidence in the public.
Lacson, now a senator, likewise pushed the national police to intensify its internal cleansing efforts to ensure that rogue police personnel who betray their oaths “to serve and protect” are caught and punished.
But in the present situation, we now have a PNP chief who is not only unfit due to his girth but is also one who flouts existing rules for his personal interest. Could someone like him tell his men to be “trim and fit” whilst he sports an obviously bloated belly that is the result of his indulgence in ‘good’ food and the ‘good’ life.
In a recent news report in the New York Post, a veteran cop points out how the New York City’s vaunted police department (NYPD) is being dragged down by overweight cops—and the brass isn’t doing anything about the ballooning problem, police sources revealed.
“We really are the world’s largest police department,” the cop, who’s worked in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx for several years now, joked about the situation.
“We’re the fattest police department in the country . . . because we have no requirement to stay in shape,” he added.
Some cops are terrified that their out-of-shape colleagues won’t be able to provide backup in physically demanding situations—even if they don’t keel over from the exertion.
“If you have a 300-pound partner who can’t even run up a flight of stairs . . . it’s dangerous for everybody,” another cop enthused.
A similar problem was experienced in Mexico but thanks to a program dubbed ‘Healthy Police’, more than 1,000 overweight cops across Mexico’s capital city have enrolled in a program to get fit which offers them a $50-a-month incentive to shed the pounds.
Mexico City police officer Graciela Benítez recalls showing up for her patrol tour and being so exhausted, that she barely had the stamina to complete the rest of her shift. But because of the new exercise and diet program introduced by Mexico’s Secretariat of Security and Civilian Protection, the 36-year-old policewoman is no longer feeling sleepy before completing her assigned shifts.
Even in Turkmenistan, where policemen patrolling the streets have been seen with bulging bellies, the order has been issued for them to initiate efforts in being fit for their jobs.
“Lose weight or lose your job,” police across the former Soviet republic in Central Asia have been told to undergo mandatory requalification tests in order to stay in the police force.
Turkmenistan’s Interior Ministry ordered officers to get in shape if they want to keep their jobs. The Ministry added that policemen must not weigh more than 100 kilograms because the country’s newly appointed interior minister Mammedkhan Chakyev “doesn’t like fat cops.”
Those who fail to meet the weight-loss requirement must resign—regardless of their rank, years of service, or other qualifications.
The requalification tests for Turkmen police also include background checks to determine if any of their close relatives have criminal records or live abroad.
Similar measures have previously been taken in neighboring Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, where authorities often criticize police about their fitness but rarely address allegations of widespread police corruption.
But what about here?
Fat cops have been with us for so long—not to say that they are below par in performance with those who are well-built like athletes. And yet, the recruitment policy has inconsistencies that significantly show it is not by merit that applicants are hired to join the police force and that appointments of officials are made because of partisan politics and gratitude.
I remember my father, who retired as a captain, when he was still active in the police service. My dad, who was then a lieutenant in the Pasay City Police Department and chief of the mobile patrol division, was slim and fit. He had no tummy to show and he maintained a healthy lifestyle—thanks to my mom who monitored all his movement and kept his overall personality and well-being as keen and sharp as a Spartan hoplite. His best asset though was his attentiveness and quick thinking, which caused him to become one of the best police investigators on Pasay; hence his adoption as aide and kumpadre by the bemedaled Colonel Joselito ‘Nonoy’ Guysayco.
Those times were the glory days of police work and being a police officer. Back then they were respected by the citizenry and no one would gainsay them when it came to enforcing the law. No one was above it as they set themselves as models and examples of being law-abiders.
I miss my dad, despite his strict and iron-fisted rule as a parent. I owe it to him what I have become now. (AI/MTVN)