Thursday, November 02, 2006

police pussification

Speaking truth to fat can get you fired:

WINTER HAVEN, Florida (AP) -- Police Chief Paul Goward was tired of looking around his department and seeing blubber hanging over the belts of some of his officers. So he sent out a memo exhorting the "jelly bellies" to shape up.

In the end, the department lost 190 pounds -- all of them belonging to Goward. He was forced out as chief because some of his officers took offense at the memo.

The October 11 memo bruised feelings on the 80-member force, drew at least one anonymous letter of complaint from officers about the chief's management style and made his department the butt of jokes about fat cops and doughnuts.

"If they got their feelings hurt to the extent of `Do something about it,' then I did what I was intending to do," said an unapologetic Goward, a trim 6-footer who was forced to resign his $92,000-a-year post last week.

Some of the chief's defenders said his ouster was a big overreaction.

"He offered tremendously good advice, yet he was sacked," wrote Thomas Roe Oldt, a columnist for The Ledger of Lakeland.

In his memo, titled "Are You a Jelly Belly," the chief never singled anyone out, and apart from the title, didn't call anyone names.

Instead, he provided a list of 10 reasons police officers should be in shape. He said overweight police poorly represent the profession, poop out when chasing suspects and might have to resort to "a higher level of force" if a criminal got the upper hand in a fight. He said out-of-shape cops are a liability to the city and their families.

"Take a good look at yourself," he wrote. "If you are unfit, do yourself and everyone else a favor. See a professional about a proper diet and a fitness training program, quit smoking, limit alcohol intake and start thinking self-pride, confidence and respectability. And stop making excuses for delaying what you know you should have been doing years ago. We didn't hire you unfit and we don't want you working unfit. Don't mean to offend, this is just straight talk. I owe it to you."

I'm fat, but I'm not into "fat acceptance." This has nothing to do with aesthetics: I've found quite a few curvy ladies attractive. It does, however, have to do with health, which is an issue if you're responsible for other people's welfare-- as a police officer, as a mother, or as anyone else in a caring/warding capacity (so yeah, I'm preaching this at myself, too, because I'm a teacher, not to mention a son, brother, and friend).

Officers in Goward's department argue that Goward's management style has been overbearing and confrontational. Perhaps the police officers who moved to get Goward fired have a point about the man; I don't know the situation, so I can't judge. But those same officers should have realized that this silliness-- which has now made the national news-- is going to generate quite a bit of ridicule. The next chief in line will have to deal with that ridicule, and it's going to end badly for the complainants: they'll be forced to shape up, because there's always the possibility of a followup piece. How big are those asses now that Goward's gone?

If some officers' feelings were hurt by the "Jelly Belly" memo, they should grow the fuck up. I endure ridicule almost daily, in forms both subtle and not-so-subtle (today, my supervisor saw me reclining in my office chair and said, "Your chair looks tired!"). If I spent all my time squeezing out tears about the remarks I hear, I'd be drier than Ann Coulter's vagina. You're freakin' police officers, people! You've got to be tough enough to put yourself in the way of guns and fists and God knows what else. Surely you can endure some constructive criticism from your chief!


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