Texas Tells Tubby State Troopers To Slim Down As Over 200 Deemed Too Fat

Overweight Texas state troopers face having to slim down before the end of the year in order to avoid disciplinary action from the Department of Public Safety (DPS) under a controversial policy.

According to documents obtained by The Dallas Morning News, male officers with waists over 40 inches, and female officers with waists over 35 inches, now have to make efforts to lose weight.

Out of a total of around 4,000 officers, 213 had failed the waistline requirement as of April this year. But only two of these 213 officers failed physical fitness tests set by the DPS.

An overweight man
Stock image showing a man measuring his belly. Obese person measuring his belly. Overweight Texas state troopers face having to slim down before the end of the year in order to avoid disciplinary action from the Department of Public Safety. iStock

Officers who still fail the waistline requirements by December 1 could be barred from receiving promotions and also face losing overtime or even being reassigned—even if they pass all other required physical fitness tests.

In order to avoid these disciplinary actions, officers who have fallen foul of the waistline requirements are undergoing fitness improvement plans that involve cutting down sugar intake and avoiding fast food, among other changes. In most cases, the officers have to document and share their weight loss efforts with the DPS.

The DPS has argued that trimming down the waistlines of certain officers is necessary in order for them have a "command presence" when dealing with the public.

According to the department's "Public Safety Health, Physical Fitness and Command Presence Policy," which was shared with Newsweek, the goal of the program is to "support and assist officers in maintaining a high degree of physical conditioning and good health by providing a periodic evaluation and assessment. In addition, the program will also provide valuable resources and incentives for non-commissioned personnel to promote and maintain healthy lifestyles.

"The key to good health and fitness lies in lifestyle. There is not a great deal that others can do to improve an officer's level of health and fitness. Each officer has an individual responsibility to maintain a level of fitness that permits him/her to carry out job responsibilities and safely handle any situation that may arise."

According to the document, command presence—i.e. maintaining a high degree of physical conditioning and professional appearance—is a "critical component" of officer safety.

"Unfortunately, good health and fitness does not 'just happen;' therefore, personal goals must be established and effort must be put forth to achieve them. A fitness plan, which includes goals in the areas of nutrition, exercise, and weight control, will pay great dividends if carried out," the document noted.

According to department policy, officers with waists that exceed the limit can still pass using other measures based on height and weight, or a percentage of body fat.

But critics of the waistline rules have said that they are arbitrary and unrelated to an officer's performance, while being unfairly harsh on women.

"DPS is continuing in its plan to harass, discipline, and even discharge outstanding officers for not meeting its physical fitness testing standards and appearance standards," the Texas Department of Public Safety Officers Association, which represents 4,700 of the department's employees, said in a statement.

The association filed a lawsuit in 2019 to stop the policy from being implemented, but this was later dismissed because no officers had been penalized at that point.

In a statement provided to the Newsweek, a spokesperson for the DPS said: "The Texas Department of Public Safety has a comprehensive Health, Physical Fitness and Command Presence policy for commissioned officers. The Public Safety Commission (PSC) has adopted a plan dictating how this policy will be implemented over the course of several years."

The spokesperson also said that the rules would be reevaluated in August at a Public Safety Commission meeting.

"The department continuously evaluates all programs for improvement. As noted on the PSC approved implementation plan, recommendations and potential changes will be discussed at the August 2022 PSC meeting after the department has analyzed data from two complete testing cycles."