Texas Department of Public Safety: Trooper oversized waistlines are now a matter of public safety

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AUSTIN, TX – The Texas Department of Public Safety is mandating that State Troopers lose weight or face disciplinary action by the end of the year.

The new requirements state that men who have waists larger than 40 inches and women with more than 35 inches must log and share their weight program with the Department of Public Safety.

 

This controversial policy is leaving many to question the waist measurements as well as how it relates to the quality of a trooper’s duties.

The Dallas Morning News reported that if troopers do not comply by the end of the year, then DPS has the power to deny promotions and overtime and even remove troopers from their duties.

If the troopers pass all necessary physical tests but do not meet the waist measurement requirements, then they will still be considered not meeting the overall requirements.

 

The policy comes at a time when the department is facing recruitment challenges and increased activities at the Texas-Mexico border. Governor Greg Abbott’s Operation Lone Star requires more troopers to be involved.

Out of 4,000 total state troopers, 213 failed the new waistline requirement. However, the department noted that only two did not pass the fitness test.

Leadership within the department argues that a slimmer waistline allows for a more imposing “presence” when working within the community.

The Texas Department of Public Safety Officers Association remarked in a statement saying that,

“DPS is continuing in its plan to harass, discipline, and even discharge outstanding officers for not meeting its physical fitness testing standards and appearance standards.”

As early as 2018, Skylor Hearn, deputy director, Texas department of public safety, commented in an email that,

“Obesity is a significant health issue in the United States and in the law enforcement profession.

In addition to the personal health risks, obesity significantly detracts from an officer’s command presence and negatively impacts their overall effectiveness.

As such, the department will take proactive steps to address this health and officer safety risk.”

Then, in 2019 the Texas Department of Public Safety Officers Association sued to put an end to the policy. However, the plan was dismissed since consequences were not in place for troopers at the time.

 

Also in 2019, the Officers Association spoke out against DPS, saying that they did not follow state law and hire a consultant when developing the standard.

Richard Jankovsky, DPSOA President said,

“Twice a year we do physical assessments where we are subjected to a variety of testing to see if we are in shape and we don’t think ones belly measurements is indicative of them being able to do their job.

Not only is this policy demeaning, it is damaging to our troopers and to our citizens.

Not all physically fit troopers are of the same body type, the same height or the same genetic makeup.

Troopers have been subject to fitness standards for more than a decade.

The new standards have moved beyond testing for fitness needed to perform one’s duty as an officer into an appearance policy that has little bearing on an officer’s ability to keep Texans safe.”

 

Now that these requirements are in place, troopers are forced to engage with the standards and track progress. One trooper said,

“I will drink no more than one diet soda each day,” and to “drastically cut sugar intake in all its forms” and avoid fast food.” Others are agreeing to go on regular walks and limit their sugar intake.

The policy is dictating that troopers with larger waistlines must write down and share their information with DPS. They must also divulge their fitness plan with goals detailing their eating and exercise regiment. DPS is requesting that they document their progress. If not, there could be penalties.

Trooper who do not meet the standards by December 1st, will face consequences.

 

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Veteran Texas Trooper saves three people from fiery wreck while off duty – where’s the media?

FORT WORTH, TX – With an explosive bang and a flash of flames, Trooper Jerry Schmidt’s evening went from low-key and relaxed to adrenalin-saturated and purposeful.

The 12-year veteran of the Texas Highway Patrol was off duty on a recent Saturday evening when he witnessed a fiery, three-vehicle collision on the entrance ramp of northbound I-820 in White Settlement, Texas, a suburb of Fort Worth.

According to a passenger in one vehicle, a Tesla clipped the Ford SUV her husband was driving, sending it spinning into the driver’s side of a Honda Accord ahead of it and coming to a stop facing the opposite direction of travel.

The Tesla drove past the colliding vehicles and stopped. The Honda came to rest facing the guardrail, a couple of feet from the rear end of the SUV, which had burst into flames.

Schmidt, 54, and son Cody Schmidt, 30, live about four hours northwest in the Dickens County town of Spur and were in Fort Worth for their monthly drill weekend with the Texas Air National Guard.

Assigned to the 136th Civil Engineer Squadron at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Jerry is a Technical Sergeant and Cody is a Senior Airman.

Veteran Texas Trooper saves three people from fiery wreck while off duty - where's the media?
Courtesy of John Quintinas

After spending the day on base, the two were relaxing in their hotel when they decided to walk to a nearby restaurant. The elder Schmidt forgot his mask and, after arguing unsuccessfully to stay inside the restaurant while ordering, went outside to the parking lot while his son ordered their meal to go.

No sooner had he stepped outside than the chaos began. Schmidt said:

“I heard the crash, looked up and saw it. A flash of flames came up from the left wheel well (of the SUV) and that caught my attention and then seconds after that I could see the red glow starting underneath the vehicle.”

Schmidt sprinted about 100 yards across the Jim Wright Freeway and up an embankment to the interstate to assess the situation and begin rescuing the vehicles’ crash-dazed occupants. He explained:

“I heard the squealing, the car hitting the guardrail, then the fire and I ran up there. I always carry a flashlight in my left pocket. I pulled it out and flashed the cars so they wouldn’t run me over.”

Veteran Texas Trooper saves three people from fiery wreck while off duty - where's the media?
Trooper Jerry Schmidt

Schmidt’s first order of business was getting the occupants out of the vehicle that was on fire. He said:

“I opened the driver’s door and he was in the process of trying to get out. He was still dazed. I told him to get out and asked if anybody else was in the vehicle because I couldn’t see across the passenger compartment because it was full of smoke. And he said his wife was in the front.

“There was a very loud pop right as I was pulling the driver out. I went around the front to get his wife out of there, and there was a really loud bang under the hood.

“I went around and her door was pinched shut. The top of the door was bowed out a little bit and I was able to get my fingers in there and pulled the door latch with my right hand and grabbed the top of the door with my left. It came open. I got her out and moved her across the guardrail off of the road.”

With the couple safe, Schmidt turned his focus to the car that had ended up facing the hotel parking lot.

Schmidt explained what happened next:

“The driver side was caved in. There was no way that door was going to open up, so I went to the passenger side and as I got there, a medic showed up. He identified himself as a medic.”

Both good Samaritans pulled out knives with glass breakers on one end and went to work. Schmidt said:

“He hit the front and I hit the top left and the side window broke. I pushed the glass out of the way with my hand and unlocked the door and went in on the passenger side.”

Inside the Honda was a 17-year-old with a nametag on his shirt. Schmidt used that information to break through to the unconscious driver. He said:

“I was trying to wake him up, I was talking to him and shaking his shoulder, trying to get him to wake up. I yelled at him: ‘Ian! Wake up! You’ve been in a car accident and you have to get out now!’

“I did a quick assessment: his legs weren’t at any odd angles; his body was in a straight-line position so it didn’t look like he’d been broken too bad. He was bleeding out of his head on the right side and his left arm was bleeding. My backside was outside the car and it was getting uncomfortably warm. I decided I was going to have to physically remove him.

“The medic said, ‘you can’t move him, he could have a spinal injury’ and I told him, ‘well the threat of death is more imminent than further injury’ because the smoke was getting into the compartment where I was at in car number two and it was getting really hot and I knew it wasn’t going to be long that we wouldn’t be able to be there, so . . .”

Schmidt grabbed the young man by his left shoulder and began to roll him up over the center console when he started to wake up. Schmidt said:

“He kind of woke up and I yelled at him and he came around and I told him he had to get out of the vehicle, it’s on fire, and he pulled his legs up and pulled himself across the console. Once he did that, I was able to grab his legs and swing him out the passenger door. Then I got on his right side and the medic got on his left side and we picked him up and carried him across the guardrail and laid him down.”

The driver was later taken by ambulance to Texas Health Fort Worth with multiple serious injuries.

Though dressed in civilian clothes, Trooper Schmidt asserted his authority over the scene and likely prevented further injury to the couple from the SUV. They had been removed from their burning vehicle but were determined to retrieve something from the back seat. He explained:

“My attention was on the driver that was injured and the man and woman were walking around. I directed them a couple of times to get farther away from the vehicle. They were going to go back to the vehicle to get something out of it. I told them no. At that time, the front of the vehicle was fully engulfed and he was planning to go up and get something out of the back seat and I told him to move away from the vehicle.”

Veteran Texas Trooper saves three people from fiery wreck while off duty - where's the media?
Courtesy of Cody Schmidt
View from hotel room

Meanwhile, Cody had gone back to the hotel with their dinner when he heard a loud bang and looked out the window to a nightmare scene about 135 yards away. It was about 7 p.m. and well past sunset. He could see a flashlight cutting through the darkness, directing passing cars away from the scene and knew it was the one his father keeps in his pocket. You never know when you’ll come upon an emergency, he has told his two sons. Cody Schmidt said:

“I thought he was just going to go back to the hotel room and wait. Well when I get to the hotel room, I looked over and I hear some loud booms and that was the car that was on fire.

“I was on the second story, looking straight out across from it, straight out at it. I had no idea that that was him over there. I just thought he had gone back to his room. But as I started seeing a flashlight move around, I was like, ‘he’s over there!’ Because my dad carries a flashlight everywhere he goes.

“So I guess he had run straight up the hill and he was the first one on scene.”

Later that night as the two discussed the fiery crash, it became obvious to Cody that his father is reluctant to take credit for good deeds.

The humility is genuine as Schmidt is the real thing. Duty, honor and integrity are interwoven with courage, a fair amount of physical strength and a respect for all lives. He’s the kind who is a lamb until a lion is necessary.

Schmidt downplays his decision to answer a call of duty but his actions on Feb. 27 have been noticed. His sergeant is putting in a request that he be given a Texas Department of Public Safety Lifesaving Award.

Back at the hotel, Cody struggled to get his dad to acknowledge his extraordinary actions. He explained:

“He said, ‘I was just doing my job.’ He came back, he had glass in his hands, where he had to bust up the window and blood on his pants and he said, ‘you know, I guess I was just in the right place at the right time.’ I said, ‘Well, to those people that you saved, you were probably their guardian angel at that moment.

“I said those people could have burned to death or the husband wouldn’t have known how to get his wife out of the car; she was halfway unconscious. You saved some people’s lives. And he said, nah, I’m no angel, I just did my job. I was just where I was supposed to be for that time.’

“I said, ‘well, I imagine when those people tell their kids about what happened, you were some savior that showed up, helped them out and then took off.’ Because he didn’t stay around. He just helped everybody, gave the police officers his name, said this is who I am. If you need my report, email me and he just came up to the room. He wasn’t looking for praise.”

Pretty standard hero behavior: Appear where you’re needed, rescue the helpless, slip back into the night. In this case, back to the hotel to wash the glass from his hands and blood from his jeans and eat a dinner of now-cold Chinese take-out.

Said Cody:

“I’ve always been proud of him. He’s just a pretty remarkable guy.”

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