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Florida police chief ousted for urging ‘jelly belly’ officers to lose weight

Posted on Nov 02, 2006
WINTER HAVEN, Fla. - 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 Oct. 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.” Winter Haven cops must pass physical examinations to be hired but are not regularly tested for fitness thereafter. 
Bob Battle
100% of my practice is devoted to serious traffic defense and criminal litigation in state and federal courts