In 1922 Charles Jolly wrote a song, The Laughing Policeman. It starts: ‘I know a fat old policeman, he’s always on our street, a fat and jolly red-faced man, he really is a treat’.
Ninety-one years later it seems these words have a ring of truth about them.
Because not only does poor fitness affect large parts of the general population, but also the police force too, with 5,300 officers being restricted to desk duties because of conditions related to poor fitness.
Is it really any surprise, though, that this many officers are sat behind a desk eating pastry products rather than chasing criminals through gardens and over fences when the required level on the police fitness test is 5.4.
The test they use is the multi-stage fitness test, better known as the bleep test.
Level 5.4 on the bleep-test! I was sure I’d read that wrong when I’d first saw it.
We had to do this test at school and even the kids who were still walking around the playing fields, red-faced and sweaty when all the others were back in the showers, could get past 5.4.
The bleep test requires someone to run between two markers before the bleep sounds –the bleeps gradually becoming shorter as time goes on.
Running is an overstatement here though because you could probably get to level 5.4 without breaking into something more than a slow jog.
How police authorities could set this standard for fitness and expect to catch criminals hot-footing it away from them is beyond me.
But apparently there are police officers who fail this test.
I can’t see how – you’d probably have to weigh in at 25 stones not to reach 5.4, but then you could roll to one marker and roll back again before the bleep sounded.
Is it any wonder then that you don’t see bobbies on the beat any more?
The only time I ever see them around where I live is if they’re hiding behind bushes or in bus shelters pointing speed cameras at passing cars.
I guess the only fitness training needed for holding a speed camera is passing the tray of Krispy Kreme doughnuts around the staff room.
That phrase, the ‘thin blue line’, now has an ironic thread running through it.