Q: I have traveled around the country a few times and there is one thing that I notice every time I return to Santa Monica. It seems to me that the Santa Monica police officers are in good physical condition when compared to other parts of the nation. What is your secret to staying in such good shape?

A: First of all, thank you very much for the compliment. The members of this department work hard and are committed to the highest level of service. One issue that most of us would agree on is that police officers need to be physically fit, due to the potential need for officers to be able to exert maximum efforts. We have to stay in shape for the safety of ourselves and for the public that we serve and protect. At any given time we could be in a physical altercation and being well conditioned could mean the difference between going home to our loved ones and not going home at all.

Police work is often sedentary in nature, without sufficient physical activity to maintain levels of fitness for exertive efforts or general health. Although we are in the profession of protecting and helping the public, we too often neglect ourselves and our body. In order to provide the services we are sworn to provide to the public, we need to understand the importance of being as physically able to perform our roles. That is where I believe the officers of the Santa Monica Police Department excel. We understand the value fitness plays not only in street survival, but injury prevention, stress reduction, low back dysfunction, obesity, etc.

The physical fitness standard of a Santa Monica police officer starts during the hiring process. That part of the process is the Santa Monica Police Department Physical Fitness Qualification. It is one of the more difficult tests in Los Angeles County. The Physical Fitness Qualification consists of four exercises designed to measure strength and endurance. The examination consists of pull ups, sit ups, push ups, and a 1.5 mile run. Each event is scored and a minimum passing score is 282 points of a total maximum score of 565 points. If you are interested in what the standards of movements are, point break down, and time table please feel free to visit the SMPD website, search fitness qualifier and challenge yourself.

Once an officer passes this test, gets hired, and graduates from the academy, his fitness path is up to the individual officer. We do not have a recurring fitness exam to test officers through their career. The majority of our department maintains physical fitness through several outlets. We have officers that play in several recreational leagues that include baseball, softball, soccer, hockey, basketball, and flag football, to name just a few. We also have officers who are competitive marathon runners and triathletes. Several of our department members have even completed the grueling Iron Man Triathlon.

One of the most popular fitness programs that many of the Santa Monica Police Officers are following is CrossFit. CrossFit is a strength and conditioning program that combines weightlifting, gymnastics or bodyweight movements, and metabolic (sprinting) conditioning into an interval training system. It is uniquely suited for the Law Enforcement Officer because it is universally scalable. Officers from a wide spectrum of age, experience, and assignment can benefit from the workouts. Our department has loosely adopted this program which has forged a new level of fitness, mental toughness, and team camaraderie within our officers. This has extended into our SWAT Team.

The Santa Monica SWAT team has always prided itself on being in top physical condition. Every six months team members must pass an obstacle course  within an allotted time. The prior course involved running, body drags, wall and fence climb and other movements. Our course has since been improved to reduce injuries and to promote a culture of fitness that is maintained year round.

The physical fitness course is in honor of Lt. Michael P. Murphy, United States Navy. Lt. Murphy was a Navy SEAL who was killed in Afghanistan during a battle with the Taliban. His heroic actions earned him the Medal of Honor. Lt. Murphy’s favorite workout was what he called “Body Armor.” It consists of a 1 mile run, 100 pull ups, 200 push ups, 300 squats, followed by another one mile run. The workout was renamed the “Murph” in honor of the focused warrior and great American who wanted nothing more than to serve his country.

Murph is far more grueling than any test we have used in the past, but due to the increased fitness level of our officers, everyone has successfully passed it. Successful completion of Murph is the standard of strength, stamina, mental toughness, and athletic ability that all Santa Monica SWAT officers must achieve to be certified as SWAT operators.

This column was prepared by Neighborhood Resource Officer Scott McGee (Beat 5: Montana Avenue to north city limits, Ocean Avenue to 26th Street). He can be reached at (424) 200-0685 or scott.mcgee@smgov.net.