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Fitness attributes a Police officer should consider in antagonistic encounters with suspects

THE health standards and physical training exercises should be viewed by law enforcement administration as a necessity in an officer’s profession. Therefore commanders of these law-enforcers must formulate best fitness training and strength programmes which will in due course enhance the fighting ability and control tactics. Christopher McDougall (2006) states that “not only was exercise just as effective as drugs in the short term, it was substantially more effective in the long term”.
Every officer requires a total commitment to attain a level of physical fitness advantageous to survival.
Officers need physical fitness to:
• endeavour physical rescues
• get involved in foot pursuit
• triumph over suspect resistance
• skirmishing to maintain control of their duty weapons
• Engaging in close quarter battle armed and unarmed
• providing successful backup to fellow officers
Various fitness factors have to be considered to optimise police and other law enforcement officers’ fitness programmes in order to defend themselves in antagonistic encounters with suspects and rioters. I interviewed a number of security officers regarding physical fitness, and it came to my attention that the majority of officers recognise the importance of fitness, but unfortunately, most of them lack the motivation; vigour, determination and more importantly the knowledge regarding how physical programmes will enhance their law-enforcement career.
Law-enforcement officers have specific fitness levels which they ought to attain pertaining to their duty; I will endeavour to underscore the specific needs that must be considered. Below are some of the obvious strengths an officer should acquire:
Cardio-respiratory system
When an officer improves cardio-respiratory system, he/she will strengthen the heart, lungs and the blood vessels, thereby improving their aerobic strength. And it will also reduce risk factors of heart disease and reduce stress.
Rotary power
It deals with how firm you can swing your baton, punch, kick or clamp a suspect to the ground; an officer can increase his turning control by developing his biceps through weight training.
Muscular strength
Muscle strength refers to the amount of force a muscle can produce with a single maximal effort. The size of muscle cells and the ability of nerves to activate them are related to muscle strength. This strength helps the body alignment and makes our everyday actions easier.
Muscular endurance
This is the ability to perform repeated muscular actions, which is very important in any physical altercation that lasts longer than 20 seconds. This strength can lengthen the period you can physically perform optimally under stressful metabolic conditions.
An officer who concentrates on muscular strength along without endurance, if he has to fight with a suspect for over 2 minutes, the officer’s  strength will fail due to lack of aerobic capacity.
This is the ability to move the joints through a range of motions  and when using weight training it is vital to exercise both sides of a joint so as to not limit joint flexibility.
It is the ability to stop and change direction quickly. I cannot picture of any confrontational situations that require speed in only a straight line movement.
To improve this potency, it must be conducted by a professional physical fitness instructor as all individual are dissimilar and should be handled in a different way. An instructor must consider the initial fitness level, age, gender and even a department an officer serves under. This allows a trainer to draw a personalised training programme.
Law-enforcement officers, in particular police officers who are physically fit, are able to diminish stress and promote self-esteem and also increase confidence and generally improve their quality of life. Some of the injuries which occur like strained and pulled muscle while officers are running, jumping or struggling with a suspect could be reduced drastically.
Unfit officers make it easier for criminals to do them harm during a combative confrontation to apprehend them.
Government and the police command must take keen interest in the fitness of our officers by providing fitness centres at every station.
The author is president of the Zambia Weightlifting Federation.

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