It’s common knowledge that police officers have to be fit; but at the EPS, fitness is more than just a way to work off the donuts. For the EPS, fitness is not weight loss and it’s not about looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger circa 1974. For our members, health and fitness means mental and physical wellness in order to succeed in their job and at home. To ensure our officers are safe and strong for the protection of our city, the EPS conducts annual fitness assessments for all officers 45 years old and younger.
In fact, 2019 marks the 40th year of EPS’ annual fitness assessments. What makes this unique milestone so significant is the fact that we are the only police service in Alberta that continues to assess our members’ fitness on an annual basis. We are also the only police service in Canada that has conducted fitness assessments for 40 consecutive years.
What are the EPS’ Fitness Assessments?
The assessments have evolved over these four decades, and have changed to reflect fitness-based trends and research to better suit the needs of our members. Members are scored anywhere from 0 to 5 points based on the results:
- Body composition assessment (not scored)
- Grip strength
- Dead hang pull-ups
- Timed plank
- Shuttle run
- Vertical jump
Fitness at the EPS
Well before the annual assessments, the EPS held fitness as a high standard of our organization. The EPS encouraged sport and comradery and members would see fitness cartoons around the organization as a motivational tool. Today, you can see our members competing on the ice or on football and soccer fields. But if you look back over the decades, we had even more sports teams, including tug-o-war, and we were great at it!
However, sports participation isn’t enough to ensure our officers can handle the physical stresses of their job. In reality, each day our members are faced with the uncertainty of what their shift will entail. Many of our employees have had to fight for their own safety – this is why we work so hard to support employee health and wellness. Syl Lemelin, EPS’ Fitness and Active Lifestyle Unit Supervisor, explains how fitness improves police work:
“Those who are fit tend to tolerate shift work better, they get less injured, and when they are sick or hurt, they come back to work a lot faster. Fit employees are more productive at work, tend to be happier on the job, and report better job satisfaction. We want healthy, thriving employees, not just during their time at EPS, but when they leave EPS, so they can enjoy a long career or a long retirement that’s healthy. I always ask the question, ‘What is your retirement going to look like? Most of you probably have grandchildren, so how important is it to you at the time of retirement that you can spend some quality time with them and be active with them?’”
EPS’ fitness assessments are a vital measurement of our officers’ success on and off duty. Most of our members see this value and some believe so strongly in them, that they voluntarily participate even though they no longer have to. Staff Sergeant Tracy Wardwas the only female in the 50-59 year old category to complete the fitness assessments last year. She has been with the service for nearly 30 years and has completed her fair share of assessments to learn she doesn’t enjoy them, but she knows their value.
“I’m pretty hard on myself, so I always want to do better and I’m never happy with my results. Last year, specifically, I participated because in April 2017 I was diagnosed with invasive ductile carcinoma cancer, and it was my fitness goal to come back after several surgeries and get ‘gold’ in my fitness, and I accomplished that.
There’s definitely value in the fitness assessments. We have a very high stress job, a job that requires you to be physically fit, but for me the stress is the one thing the fitness assessments have helped me with.”
Staff Sergeant Tracy Ward certainly wasn’t the only officer over 45 to participate in the fitness assessments last year. Detective Andre Francois was one of a handful of male officers in the 50-59 year old category to see the benefits of testing your strength at any age.
“The Edmonton Police Service has had a long standing tradition and culture of fitness that goes back 40 years, and I believe that we should continue that tradition. [It’s] a good benchmark for members to assess where they’re at in their fitness journey and look for areas where they can improve. The fitness testing within the teams and squads promotes friendly competition; there’s the Top Squad Award and Top Cop Award. I believe they help motivate members towards excellence in their fitness.
Personally, the fitness test is hard; from that aspect I do enjoy challenging myself. I did the test as a personal challenge to see where I was at with my fitness and how I measured up to where I was several years ago.”
These are just a few stories being told internally to inspire and encourage our members to keep their fitness a priority throughout their career. We also want to share this motivation with the citizens we serve, by inviting anyone to join us if they see us in the communities playing hockey, basketball, soccer, or running. Citizens can join our Run with Recruiters event any time, and you don’t need to be interested in policing to join in the fun. However, if you want to make a career out of your fitness lifestyle, EPS is always hiring.