By Jason A. Smith
Henry County Police Officer Pamela Pressly exercised, using a newly purchased elliptical machine, while surrounded by her co-workers.
In addition to improving her level of fitness, she said, the exercise room helps to increase camaraderie with her fellow officers. "Working out with your buddies is a lot better than working out by yourself," she said.
The police department, on Thursday, received treadmills, weights, and other exercise equipment. Officers used the equipment -- which includes Diamondback, Nautilus and BodySolid brands -- for the first time Friday.
Henry County Police Chief Keith Nichols said the equipment, valued at $23,000, was purchased using funds seized during narcotics investigations.
The agency, he added, bought the items at half-price, and at no cost to taxpayers in Henry. The items were placed in two rooms which were previously empty.
Nichols said the equipment will help increase officers' overall health.
"I think it's important for them to have it, just because of the way things have transitioned in law enforcement," he said. "Our lifestyles tend to be less healthy than the general population. What I mean by that is, we lead extremely stressful lives, just in the nature of the work that we do. There's not a lot available to us, in terms of being able to sit down and eat a good, healthy meal. Normally, what we have available to us is fast food."
The chief said prospective officers must pass a fitness test before they are employed with the department. Prior to the purchase of the equipment, opportunities to stay in shape were scarce, he said.
"This is where they need it the most," continued Nichols. "As an officer here, they may have to physically exert themselves in trying to apprehend and arrest a suspect, and we want them to be in good physical condition."
Nichols said he is working to develop a physical-training program, for all employees of the department.
Training Officer Carol Wood assisted Nichols, in obtaining the equipment. She said most Henry officers are "excited" to be able to focus on their fitness, without having to go to a gym.
"A lot of officers are not comfortable going to a gym," she said. "They know they want to do something, and they know they need something for better wellness, but they just don't know ... where to go to get that."
The department, according to Wood, recently increased its annual training requirements, from 20 hours of training per year, to 40 hours. She said the equipment will help officers meet the new requirement.
Henry Police Officer David Lam stepped onto a Diamondback elliptical machine in the new weight room. He said the machine provides a way for him to focus on cardiovascular training.
"It gives you a good cardio workout, but at the same time, it doesn't give you wear and tear on your knees, like a treadmill would," said Lam.
He added that he is looking forward to using the equipment, which will help him when he is on patrol.
"You never know what situation may arise, whether you get into an altercation with someone, or you need to chase someone," he said. "If you're not in shape ..., it's going to be much harder for your job."
Police Lt. Vance Rosen echoed Lam's sentiments, calling the equipment an "incredibly important" purchase for the department, for two reasons.
"First and foremost, the citizens of the county expect us to be physically fit enough to do our job," said Rosen. "Secondly, a fit officer generally has a lower stress level. They generally have fewer sick days. [The equipment] has all-encompassing benefits. There's nothing that's not beneficial about having it."
Sgt. Jeff Owen said he is glad the officers see the value in using the equipment. "Officers taking advantage of what the department has been able to purchase, is a great asset in that it increases their level of physical fitness," he said. "It builds our team. We're pushing each other a little bit further."