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Wednesday, 17 April, 2002, 12:56 GMT 13:56 UK
Fat police officers lose bonus
Florida Highway Patrol police officers
Spot the slimmest wallet
If you happen to work as a police officer in Florida, you might be well advised to start dieting now.

The US state's highway patrol has decreed that overweight cops will not be paid a new $500 (350) annual performance bonus.

When you've got to jump out of a patrol car and chase the bad guy and handle the stress... to do that you're gonna have to get healthy and stay healthy

Captain David Tripp
Florida Highway Patrol
Not simply because they're fat, the state insists.

According to the force's spokesman, Captain David Tripp - whose 6 foot (1.83m) frame weighs in at 165 pounds (74.8kg) - this is a safety issue rather than one to do with weight.

"When you've got to jump out of a patrol car and chase the bad guy and handle the stress... to do that you're gonna have to get healthy and stay healthy," he told Reuters.

Consequently, cops tipping the scales at more than 15 pounds (6.8 kg) above the maximum recommended weight for their height will suffer slimmer wallets.

Obese objections

But the force's chubbiest members were far from mollified by trooper Captain Tripp's insistence that "it's not a very hard standard to meet".

Florida Highway Patrol director Colonel Christopher Knight
Florida Highway Patrol director Colonel Christopher Knight's police force penalises obesity
"An officer could have the highest arrest record, they could have the highest [number of driving under influence arrests], they could have the best performance, and [yet] they could lose out on the bonus," protested one giant trooper, Sergeant Jim Rhyne.

Sergeant Rhyne, who at six-foot-four-inches high (1.93m) weighs in at 270 pounds (123kg), is certainly big enough to see his bonus disappear.

Although his own doctor has told him he could safely carry 250 pounds on his frame, the ideal height and weight chart used by the Florida force sets an upper limit of just 231 pounds.

Union clash

Unfortunately for the Florida Highway Patrol's policy makers, Sergeant Rhyne is also the leader of the International Union of Police Associations Florida chapter.

Two men on the beach
Bad cop, good cop?
As such, his protests carry a great deal of weight.

"I'm not advocating obesity," Sergeant Rhyne said diplomatically.

"Our issue is: Is job performance affected to the point that they shouldn't be eligible for the bonus?"

Kicking not running

Sergeant Rhyne insisted his own obesity has had no effect on his performance.

"I consider myself overweight. Rather than running after the bad guy, I'm generally the one who kicks down the door," he told Reuters.

"But I've been a supervisor for almost 20 years. As a supervisor, I don't think my weight has ever affected my job."

See also:

05 Mar 02 | Scotland
'Couch potato' drug to fight flab
19 Nov 01 | Health
'Fat zapper' breaks down flab
04 Feb 02 | Health
Drug hope for obesity
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