For Bakersfield Senior Police Officer Danni Melendez, the importance of fitness hit him when he was on foot patrol shortly after graduating from the police academy.
Yes, he had passed all the running drills, did all the jumping jacks, and made it through the physical requirements needed to graduate.
And then he found himself 30 pounds heavier, wearing all of his police gear – holster, gun, bullet proof vest, radio – and chasing people on the streets who were in shorts and t-shirts. He realized he needed to get fit. Seriously fit.
“I didn’t want to be the guy who couldn’t hold my own. I didn’t want to have my partner be in a fight for his life and me not able to help him,” Melendez said. “I decided to focus on fitness. And I didn’t want to just run a million miles and do jumping jacks. I wanted to really focus.”
Melendez found his fitness community within the department, a group of police officers who all love fitness, and more importantly, love teaching fitness to anyone who wants to learn. He put his focus on Cross Fit, weightlifting, and nutrition and found a level of physical stamina he hadn’t had before.
It was official, he was hooked on fitness.
These days, Melendez is teaching fitness to new recruits as a member of the department’s new Wellness Team, which puts a focus on mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health. Sergeant Peter Beagley oversees the team, which is made up of 22 members including Melendez, who focuses on the fitness side of wellness.
The Wellness Team assists new recruits who need additional training and nutrition, and also create fitness programs for staff and police officers looking to get back into shape.
“Everyone on our team is an inspiration. Some people enjoy running, lifting, wrestling, Cross Fit … there’s an array of talent and (we) instruct together as a group,” Melendez said. “We have this idea that you give us a person, no matter what their physical ability is today, and as long as you give me everything you got every single day, you are going to see a big difference of who you are. Not just physically, but mentally, too.”
The Department’s BPD Fitness team has an Instagram page, which includes videos for nutrition, portion size, and recipes for cooking inspiration for officers looking to change their eating habits. They add information on Workouts of the Day (WOD), as well as celebrate the successes of those who are part of BPD Fitness.
They also provide a number of annual events that have become community staples for both the police officers involved and for the Bakersfield fitness community members who know the officers from the local gyms, bike trails and running groups.
“We created all of these events because we want to motivate our officers to stay in shape. Our staff, too. We have a few 5Ks throughout the year, a virtual 5K memorial run and a Howl at the Moon 5K that we run with our K9s,” said Beagley. “These events allow us to raise money and 100 percent of it goes to a charity.”
Events held by BPD Fitness include:
David Nelson Hero Workout: In June, BPD Fitness and the community come together to participate in a workout to honor Officer David Nelson, who crashed his car and died while chasing a suspect near Bakersfield College in 2015. Known for his love of fitness, the Nelson Hero Workout includes a1-mile run, 19 sets of exercises, and 19 laps in the pool. The numbers are significant because they made up his badge number. The cost to participate in the workout is a minimum of $20 and all of the funds raised during the event are donated to the David Nelson Memorial Scholarship Fund.
The Ultimate First Responders: In the spring, Bakersfield’s first responders get together with friends, family, and local fitness enthusiasts for The Ultimate First Responders event. Participants compete in a Cross Fit style competition that includes events from pushing a police car, carrying a 186-pound dummy, jumping a chain link fence, and breaking through doors as well as doing pull-ups, planks, and sit-ups for 10 minutes. This year’s event will be held on May 21. For more details, visit https://www.instagram.com/p/CaX4xq-loi6/
Lift-a-Thon: This fall event is for the department’s power lifters, who enjoy the power of pumping weight. The competition is based on weight, and categories are broken up into age. Officers compete in bench presses, dead lifts, and squats and proceeds from the Lift-A-Thon benefit the Police Activities League (PAL) and other local nonprofits. This event helps to keep officers in peak physical condition and also connect with the community.