MARIETTA - Marietta Police Sgt. Bob Heddleston scratched one item off his bucket list in June, when he competed in his first warrior dash in Logan.
The 3.5-mile obstacle course was challenging, but working toward his goal of completing the race has had some serious benefits for Heddleston, who has lost 46 pounds since he started walking for fitness last September.
"I just feel better probably than when I was 30 even. I definitely have a lot more stamina and coordination," said Heddleston, 53.
While Heddleston took it upon himself to make these lifestyle changes, there are currently no incentives or mandates in place to encourage members of the Marietta Police Department to stay active and healthy, said Marietta Police Chief Brett McKitrick.
According to a June survey conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of CareerBuilder, protective services careers, including police and firefighters, were one of the top ten occupations where employees reported weight gain. Sedentary or high stress positions were considered the main culprits.
Some members of the Marietta Police Department have discussed the idea of negotiating a physical fitness incentive program into their labor union contract, much like the Marietta Fire Department has now. However, enacting such a program would have its fair share of difficulties, said McKitrick.
"It always boils down to money. There never seems to be enough extra money for things like that," he said.
As part of their current labor union contract, each member of the Marietta Fire Department is eligible to receive a $300 bonus each year if they pass certain requirements during an annual physical fitness test, said Marietta Fire Lt. Rodney Scott.
The test, which has different requirements based on age, includes sit-ups, push-ups, a flex arm hang, a 1.5-mile run, a run up and down stairs, carrying a heavy weight a certain distance, and carrying a section of hose across a beam without falling, said Scott.
With 33 members of the Marietta Fire Department, the city could pay out a maximum yearly bonus of $9,900.
"At the city level, (Marietta City Council) would have to be receptive. There would have to be a cost associated with it. The city treasurer would have to be willing to absorb the payout," said Marietta Safety-Service Director Jonathan Hupp.
Patrolman Bob Ellenwood, who also teaches self defense tactics to cadets at Washington State Community College, thinks that the end result would be worth the additional costs.
"You're going to have less injury. You're going to have less sick time," Ellenwood said of a health-minded police force.
Additionally, some insurance plans offer lower premiums to customers who pass certain fitness requirements. The city's current insurance provider, The Michigan Conference of Teamsters, does not, said Hupp.
Physical fitness is also a safety factor, said Ellenwood.
"When arresting someone, we try to use as little force as possible," he said.
However, sometimes suspects attempt to flee or fight. In these situations, physically fit officers are going to be safer during the conflict and able to diffuse the situation more quickly, said Ellenwood.
Because the program would be optional, many Marietta patrolmen seem to be in favor of it.
"It's not only a incentive for the officers. The healthier we are the better we can perform our jobs," said Officer Brandon Chapman.
Officer John Hanson said the program would be good for those officers want to get fit, but need an extra motivating push.
The consensus among local citizens is that the health of the police force directly correlates to their ability to perform their job functions.
I think it is a good idea beacause they need to be healthy. They are high stress jobs. They are active jobs. And if there are not in good health, they can not perform," said Teresa Adams, a Fleming resident who has worked as a nurse and paramedic.
Marietta resident Melissa Smith, 41, also thinks the benefits are worth the monetary incentives.
"To me, it seems that will benefit them on the job when they come across situtions that would entail wrestling or activity. Plus in the long run, it will mean lower health costs as they grow older," said Smith.
One of the biggest road blocks in the way of a healthier police force is the department's lack of any sort of gym, said Ellenwood.
"I think the city would need to offer something where they could work out to meet those standards," agreed McKitrick.
Though the nearby Washington County Sheriff's Office allows Marietta Police Department employees to use their gym, patrolmen would be more enticed to exercise if they had their own on-site exercise facility and shower, said Ellenwood.
Now that Marietta Municipal Court is ensconced in its new location, the second floor at 301 Putnam St. is empty and awaiting new occupation. However, before any decision can be made on how to use that space, the city will need to find funding, said Hupp.
Even if the city can provide a work out facility and find funding for the incentives, it would still be a few years before they initiate such a program.
The Marietta Police Department's next labor union contract negotiation is still three years away, said Marietta Police Captain Jeff Waite.