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80% police overweight? Study says police are overweight, but data is from 2003

80% police overweight? Study says police are overweight, but data is from 2003
80% police overweight? Study says police are overweight, but data is from 2003
Cops in a Doughnut Shop / Wikimedia Commons

80% of police are overweight. An FBI study says that 8 out of every ten members of the police force are categorized as overweight, but the information is coming from an FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin that is over two decades old.

CBS News 11 out of Texas first reported on the disquieting statistic, saying U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation “released a new statistic,” and telling us that “researchers have said law enforcement personnel are 25 times more likely to die from weight related cardiovascular disease than the actions of a criminal.”

As you can imagine, readers chewing the fat on those startling stats were none too kind in their comments, trotting out their pig, oink oink, donut and other hackneyed remarks. Obesity in America is certainly a concern, and undoubtedly we have some law enforcement personnel that would do well to shed some pounds, but the “new” report is actually from 2005.

The information came from a 2005 FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, and the data came from a 2003 study. Even then, only 75 police officers were polled.

Says the report:

Many statistics and related information exist about the health status of the general population, and several concern the law enforcement profession. In October 2003, the author (Daniel E.Shell, Division of Public Safety Leader-ship, Johns Hopkins University) administered a questionnaire to 75 law enforcement executives and other professionals. Part of the questionnaire included a Body Mass Index exercise and nutritional assessment. Based on the BMI,80 percent of the respondents classified as overweight with approximately one-third identified in the obese category.

Americans in general are 70 percent overweight, with a little over a third coming in as obese. According to the CDC, in 2012, 35.1 percent of adults over 20 rated as obese, while 69 percent were overweight. Obesity is defined as a BMI score over 30.

CBS spoke with the Garland Police Department about the so-called new study, but didn't indicate to them that the numbers were outdated. Still, Garland Assistant Chief Jeff Bryan said he plans to make it a priority for his officers to improve their fitness.

“I think it’s important for all of us to keep the weight down and stay in shape – especially this job. The stress that we incur at this job… this is a great way to relieve the stress and to keep the blood pressure down,” Bryan said.

“When you’re in a life or death struggle, you’ve got to win that fight, said Bryan about the importance of keeping fit.

Garland police spokesperson Joe Harn said the numbers from the FBI aren’t adding up.

“Do we have some that are overweight? Sure we do. But, not to that percentage,” Harn said.

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