WPD wellness program helps police stay fit, prep for future

A mural is on one of the walls where Weatherford police officers work out. In the past few years, Weatherford Police Department has put the focus on helping its employees stay fit mentally and physically. 

In recent years, Weatherford Police Department has put the focus on helping its employees stay fit in more ways than one.

The department has aimed to support and strengthen physical, mental, spiritual and financial wellness in its officers, WPD Chief Lance Arnold said.

“I think you really need all four of those things and kind of a focus on all four of those things to really create an environment not only where you are creating the best environment you can for the members of your agency, whether they’re sworn or non-sworn, but you’re also preparing them, one, for a long road in this business but really as important, is you’re preparing them for when they decide it’s time to retire and it’s time to enjoy that retirement,” Arnold said.

WPD Fitness Coordinator Jason Hayes has worked with Arnold to develop a mandatory fitness program, which aims to improve cardiovascular health, for new and incumbent officers. The program is modeled after the Texas Department of Public Safety’s use of the Concept 2 rower, Hayes said. The test started out as voluntary but is now mandatory for officers.

“The scoring of the test is dependent on several factors in order to avoid absolute standards and creating any adverse and disparaging impacts,” Hayes said. “The standards are supported by scientifically proven data sets for police officers, and they incorporate gender and age as factors.”

Once a third test is complete, a standard will be set, and testing will occur every six months, Hayes said.

In addition, WPD has been allowing officers to exercise on duty for up to three hours per week for several years now, Hayes said.

WPD has a fitness committee to recommend policies and test administration. The committee recently refurbished the WPD gym and added new equipment, Hayes said.

“The concept behind the fitness program is to ensure our officers are capable of meeting the physical demands of our profession,” Hayes said. “The expectation is that officers have a level of fitness that ensures mission success and personal longevity. The major benefit to the mandatory testing is that it also encourages officers to develop improved cardiovascular health. Statically cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer of men and women in the United States, so it stands to good reason that we would make this a major focal point of our program.”

For mental health, WPD has peer support, which trains some WPD employees and local law enforcement to be there to support their fellow officers. They respond to critical incidents like officer-involved shootings and when an officer has observed the death of a child, Detective Jason Goff said. Peer support members talk with officers at the scene and afterward and help the officer manage their wellbeing.

Currently, there are about six peer support members, Goff said. Peer support also helps officers with hardships in an officer’s personal life, and the information an officer shares with peer support is confidential. Resources given to officers through peer support also conceal an officer’s issues.

Peer support members encourage police officers to make healthy choices to maintain mental health as well as allowing them to talk about their feelings, Goff said.

“We deal with other people’s problems every time we come to work, and if we’re having trouble with our own mental health, how are we going to help them with their problems?” Goff said.

Since 2018, Arnold started a program to connect police and telecommunications officers with a psychiatrist for mental health check-ups, which is a confidential, one-on-one visit.

“What we’re really trying to do with that side of things is remove that stigma of talking to mental health professionals,” Arnold said.

For spiritual needs, WPD has an in-house chaplain and partners with the Parker County Ministerial Alliance. These resources are available but not forced on anyone, Arnold said.

Financial wellness at WPD relates to educating employees about health and life insurance, retirement planning and money management, Arnold said.

“With this program, we will be better able to serve our citizens and promote health in our officers,” Hayes said. “Our desire is to not only set our officers up for success during their years of service to this community, but for the remainder of their lives.”

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