Background

Obesity not only affects the ability of police officers to perform their work-related duties, but, consequently, it may also impact public safety. Therefore, research regarding obesity among law enforcement officers is warranted, with some focus on the role of leadership to address this treatment population.

Methods

Utilizing a qualitative methodological approach (Qualitative Description), the attitudes and perceptions of 36 police chiefs were assessed regarding obesity among law enforcement officers (LEOs). Participants were recruited using two state police chief association list-servs in the southern region of the U.S. A survey consisting of 24 open-ended questions as well as demographic questions were disbursed to the list-serve. Surveys were coded by members of the research team with a focus on key words, sentences, and phrases that were used by participants to answer questions.

Results

36 police chiefs, which included 31 males and five females, participated in the study. In terms of self-identification, 20 participants reported being overweight, 14 reported being a normal weight, and two participants abstained from the question, which differed from BMI results of self-reported height and weight. In the study, three themes emerged which included: (1) The Meaning of Obesity, (2) Resources to Address Obesity, and (3) The Culture of Health.

Conclusions

A consideration of the role that Police Chiefs have in leading a health initiative may be an important point of intervention in terms of increasing resources for LEOs.