Obesity uniform target for police
Published 23/03/2010 | 11:51
South Africa's police officers will have to squeeze into their uniforms and hit the gym as part of a programme aimed at making them better able to chase criminals in a country with one of the world's highest violent crime rates.
The launch of a fitness programme on Monday comes after one study earlier this month in the city of Port Elizabeth found more than half of the city's police force was medically obese, raising questions about their ability to keep fans safe during the FIFA World Cup.
About 200 police trainees kicked off the Viva Fitness! programme, doing jumping jacks and other exercises. Activities like the "ice-cube catch" and "tire drag" were also on offer. Officials are also measuring officers' body fat percentage.
Baby Jake, a former flyweight boxer and one of the local celebrity faces of the programme, says if police officers are fitter, South Africa will be a better country.
"I'm sure they'll shoot less and run more," he said.
Officers will be required to maintain the uniform size issued when they leave the academy. Those who exceed the size of the uniform they are issued will be given the opportunity to get back into shape over a year.
If they do not, they will be in breach of policy and will no longer be allowed to be part of the organisation, National Police Commissioner Bheki Cele said.
"Police officers should be able to walk with their heads held high, their stomach in, and chest out - not the other way around," Mr Cele said.
The police service has committed to trying to install gyms at all police stations, as well as signing agreements with private gym partners to provide subsidised facilities for their staff.
Director Phil Vuma, who has been in the police force for 24 years, thinks the biggest benefit of the new fitness programme will be a shift in public perception, especially among criminals.