Starting in the new year, Hall County Sheriff’s Office deputies will face a slightly more difficult test than the new hires in their physical assessments.
“Pushing a sled, dragging a dummy, recovering from getting up off your back, going over the wall — it’s what they do,” Sgt. Greg Cochran said. “It’s what some of these guys do every day, especially on patrol in the busy districts.”
The Sheriff’s Office unveiled the physical assessment in July, a combination of physical activities including an inclined treadmill, an outdoor course and other assessments. Deputies in enforcement and custodial positions will now run the course in a fluid motion, which will hone in on the officer’s cardiovascular health and ability to follow directions.
“Every move in this physical ability course is now related to something they need to do in their job every day,” Cochran said. “It definitely brings to life their duties a little bit more, and they can relate to it.”
The tests were slated to begin departmentwide in the summer, but Cochran said he wanted to postpone and make sure the program was an accurate representation of the average officer’s duties.
One person looking to take the test is Deputy Chad Mann, who has gone through his own journey for weight loss and better health since joining the department in December 2012.
Mann tipped the scales at 337 pounds and got the command from his doctor: Get the sugar under control.
“The best thing for me was to try and get it under control myself, but I had nowhere to begin,” the deputy said.
Mann and his wife cleaned out the pantry, switched to sugar substitutes and spent more time looking at the content of the food they buy.
“There isn’t a granulated drop of sugar in my house,” Mann said.
Just from the diet changes, Mann said he lost 100 pounds in the first year before getting into the exercise portion.
“When (Cochran) joined the Sheriff’s Office and started helping boost and ramp up our fitness initiative, that’s when I jumped onboard and knew it was for me,” Mann said.
Mann’s story is similar to other successes Cochran has seen around the department, with staff members across the Sheriff’s Office losing significant amounts of weight and gaining muscle.
“I don’t want to credit just the fear of this course coming,” he said. “I think bringing knowledge to them and saying this is what that extra weight is doing to you or this is what drinking these sodas are doing to you.”
Since working with Cochran, Mann said he enjoys greater flexibility and more energy. Cochran, who comes from a family of diabetics, stresses the importance of healthy eating as well as the physical element.
“It’s not just about flipping tires and pulling trucks to me,” he said.
Cochran said the course will be timed, but the department is looking for completion.
“However, the bottom 10 percent of those times are required to come to a prescribed exercise program at least twice a week,” Cochran said, adding that it would be paid time.
Since beginning the program this summer, Cochran said the success rate for new hires sits around 76 percent for roughly 250 people tested.
“It isn’t about making a test hard,” he said. “This is about making a test that tells us if they can do the job and again inspires them to get healthier.”
The Sheriff’s Office currently tests its employees and new hires at the estimated 50th percentile of the general population. The hope, Cochran said, is to continually up the requirement in the following years to a higher percentile.
By trying to inspire the department to healthier, Cochran said he believes the system can become a “self-improving mechanism.”
“It doesn’t matter if you have a room full of Herschel Walkers,” he said. “You’re still going to have a bottom 10 percent. So in the grand scheme of things, if this is a success, the bottom 10 percent should change every year.”