Fit for patrol duty

Deputies would have to stay in shape or get behind a desk
Friday, June 22, 2007 | 12:32 a.m. CDT; updated 12:11 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008
Deputy Craig James of the Boone County Sheriff’s Department explains the obstacle course he designed for the SWAT team. The course includes a quarter-mile run, wall climb, door knock, tire course, dummy drag and target practice.

Boone County sheriff’s deputies are about to shed the coffee-and-doughnuts stereotype, along with a few extra pounds. Sheriff Dwayne Carey is planning to implement a physical fitness program that would require patrol deputies to either step up or step down.

Carey approached the Boone County Commission with the idea at a work session Monday. The program would require all patrol deputies to run an obstacle course in an allotted period of time to keep their field jobs. According to Carey, deputies who cannot finish the course in time would be reassigned to other work until they improve their physical fitness.

“My plan now is to look into getting all our people physicals, and on January first everyone in a brown uniform and a patrol car will be told that they have to be able to run a course by July,” Carey said.

The physical challenge would combine sprinting, climbing, jumping and shooting. The Special Weapons and Tactics team uses an obstacle course for tactical training. To stay on the team, members have to finish the course in five minutes or less, said Deputy Craig James, SWAT team leader.

The SWAT course will likely be adjusted to better suit patrol deputies’ duties. They may also be given more than five minutes to complete it, James said.

“Everything in the course has to be operationally relevant,” said Sgt. Lance Robbins, SWAT team commander. “It has to reasonably mimic what’s out in the field.”

Deputies will have six months to train on their own to run the course, according to Carey. He said gym memberships might be difficult to get for some of the staff, so he wants to eventually have an on-site workout facility.

“If you’re requiring individuals to pass a physical course, you need a way for them to train to do that,” Carey said.

Plans for a gym at the Sheriff’s Department are on hold as Carey struggles to find room. It’s a tight squeeze around files and evidence in storage rooms. Carey is looking to add a building with more offices and storage on the north side of the Sheriff’s Department. Extra space increases the likelihood of gym facilities.

The sheriff said he is also planning to ask the commission for funds to screen patrol deputies participating in the physical fitness program for health problems that might interfere with the training or, ultimately, with their job performance.

Carey said improved fitness means not only improved service to county residents, but also improved lifestyles and well-being for his staff. He hopes fitness plans would decrease sick time and make deputies safer in the field.

“Going back to 1989 when I started, I can think of so many times when good physical fitness helped me in a foot pursuit, for instance,” Carey said. “Part of our job is to go home to our families.”

Carey’s physical fitness program was among other training programs he mentioned at the Monday work session. He is also planning to ask the commission for funds to send two new evidence technicians to Kansas City Crime Lab training and internal affairs training in Daytona, Fla.

Proposition L, a 15-year, eight-cent sales tax the county began collecting in 2003, gave the Sheriff’s Department the opportunity to expand its staff, but the overall revenues in the training fund have stayed relatively static, Boone County Auditor June Pitchford said. The extra money for training would come either from the county’s general fund or from Proposition L revenues, she added. The supplemental training funds will have to be approved by the county commission.

“The commissioners are very receptive,” Carey said. “They have been very good to me because they know I’m coming to them with needs and not just a wish list.”

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