AUSTIN, TX — Texas Department of Public Safety troopers will be able to relax their belts thanks to modified physical fitness requirements authorised by an oversight body on Thursday.

The contentious physical fitness and command presence policy of the department now allows for an additional inch of leeway on waist measurements, climbing to 41 inches for males and 36 inches for women.

The Public Safety Commission also reduced the punishment for troopers who exceeded the waistline standard.

Previously, troopers who failed physical fitness exams or waist and obesity requirements were not eligible for lucrative off-duty uniformed jobs and were not considered for advancement. These officers may also be assigned to desk duties and forfeit overtime assignments, which can result in six-figure pay raises for certain troopers.

Those penalties are no longer in effect, but troopers must have a commanding presence while interacting with the public, according to DPS leadership.

“DPS is clearly a superior law enforcement institution and will remain such,” stated Commissioner Dale Wainwright. “In order for it to happen, we need commissioned officers who can execute their jobs both physically and emotionally well.”

According to DPS regulation, troopers must complete a physical fitness exam twice a year, which may involve completing targets on a rowing machine, combat tests, or a fitness test that evaluates pushups and belly crunches.

The DPS officers union president, Lt. Richard Jankovsky, has urged for the waistline restriction to be repealed. He stated that he has heard from numerous troopers who met physical fitness criteria but were put on a required fitness plan because on their waistline measurement.

During the most recent round of exams, nearly every trooper — 99.6% — passed physical fitness criteria, while slightly less — 95.8% — fulfilled the waistline threshold.

Thursday’s action, according to Jankovsky, was “a step in the right path.”

“I applaud the commission’s openness to review and make improvements,” he added.

They who are not in compliance must still participate in a fitness development plan that includes exercise objectives and dietary diaries with frequent entries indicating steps officers are doing to enhance their physical fitness.

Michael Harper, the physical wellness training programme supervisor, told the commission about many success stories, including one about a trooper in San Antonio who dropped 47 pounds and 8.5 inches off his waist after being obliged to develop a fitness development plan.

DPS has 224 troopers that needed to be trimmed down last year. Harper claimed the number was reduced to 175 during spring testing.

“The physical fitness assessment and command presence rules are helping to ensure commissioned officers within DPS are fit for duty, and more importantly, fit for life,” Harper added.