Police Chief Perceptions of Officer Physical Fitness and Barriers to Better Fitness





police, perceptions, fitness, barriers, Texas


Maintaining fitness and a healthy bodyweight can enhance police officer safety, de-escalation, and subsequently survivability in addition to overall health and wellness. Within a law enforcement agency, it can be difficult to implement a health and wellness program without the support of the police chief and command staff. However, support for health and wellness programs and the perceived impact on the job by law enforcement police chiefs is not well known. This article analyzes police chiefs’ perspectives on police officer physical fitness and bodyweight, and their impact on multiple aspects of the job, as well as barriers to implementing health and wellness programs. A survey of 425 Texas police chiefs indicated 99.5% of respondents believed it was important or somewhat important for officers to be at a healthy bodyweight. The top potential barriers to officers’ physical fitness represented by police chiefs were individual unwillingness and laziness. A more thorough understanding of perceptions and beliefs by law enforcement leadership can help enhance the alignment of programs, impact habits, and ultimately influence daily choices that officers make. These perceptions can also assist in the development of programs to further support officer readiness, safety, and survivability, as well as overall health.

Author Biographies

Matthew Wagner, Sam Houston State University

Dr. Wagner is an Associate Professor of Kinesiology at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas. He received a bachelor’s degree in Law Enforcement/Criminal Justice from Sam Houston State University, a master’s degree in Kinesiology from Sam Houston State University, and a PhD in Kinesiology from Texas A&M University. Dr. Wagner’s research interests include performance improvement for athletes, law enforcement, and correctional employee fitness.

Michael Harper, Texas Department of Public Safety

Mr. Harper is the Fitness Wellness Training Supervisor for the Texas Department of Public Safety (TX DPS). He oversees physical fitness testing and assessment for TX DPS commissioned officers plus comprehensive employee wellness programming. Previously, Mr. Harper was The Cooper Institute Associate Director and Strategy Leader for First Responder and Military Programs.

Alexis R. Rockwell, University of South Alabama

Dr. Rockwell is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science and Criminal Justice at the University of South Alabama. Dr. Rockwell received her PhD in Criminal Justice from Sam Houston State University. Her research interests include police culture and police policies, including body-worn camera and use of force policies. Her research utilizes both quantitative and qualitative methodologies.

William Wells, Sam Houston State University

Dr. Wells is a Professor and Chair of the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology at Sam Houston State University. In 2021, Dr. Wells received the SHSU Award for Excellence in Scholarly and Creative Accomplishments. Dr. Wells has been involved in several large-scale policing research projects in the United States and internationally since 1996. He is currently collaborating with multiple criminal justice system organizations on research projects.




How to Cite

Wagner, Matthew, Michael Harper, Alexis R. Rockwell, and William Wells. 2023. “Police Chief Perceptions of Officer Physical Fitness and Barriers to Better Fitness”. International Journal of Police Science (IJPS) 2 (1). https://doi.org/10.56331/ijps.v2i1.7613.



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