As Britain debates swingeing cuts to the police budget, commentators lament that the famous "thin blue line" of officers protecting the public from harm is growing thinner. But the slimming of the force may also take a more literal shape following the Winsor Review, a 1,000-page independent assessment of police pay and conditions published in March.
The review finds a staggering 65% of male officers and staff in London’s Metropolitan Police to be over-weight or obese. That is, they had a body mass index (BMI, the ratio of weight to height) of over 25 – nine points above the average for the general population.
A nifty entry on straightstatistics.org explains why this matters: A 2008 study found 69 per cent of convicted criminals to have a BMI between 19 and 25 – the range for "solid and muscular" types. As most of London’s Bobbies are fatter than that, they are less likely to catch the typical criminal. In short, they can’t keep up.
As such, it seems wise that Vienna’s Polizei only admits applicants with a brawny BMI between 18 and 25. But the crucial point is not only the physical fitness of recruits, but also of seasoned officers who might have spent more time in the canteen than out on the streets. The absence of regular check-ups is exactly what the Winsor Review spotlighted.
So does the Vienna police regularly test officers’ fitness?
The head of the force’s press department, a long-serving lieu-
tenant colonel, can’t seem to remember when he was last asked to run a mile: "I’ll have to look into this for you."
His written answer later confirms that "we trust in our colleagues’ voluntary work outs."