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Finland's "food police" crack down on doughnut-chomping cops

Ditch the donuts and go for healthy treats or homemade snacks. Two police recruits claim to have rewritten the recipe for officers to get through demanding night shifts – and stay healthy in the bargain.

Donitsien kuorrutus
Image: Jaana Polamo / Yle

During their training, two young police recruits noticed that fellow officers were given to wolfing down fast foods like kebabs and burgers – and that their bodies suffered as a result.

Niilo Nieminen and Tony Johansson decided to do something about curbing their peers’ appetite for meals with low nutritional value. They put pen to paper and came up with a guidebook titled “Nutritional guide for police on night shifts”.

The online manual had hardly been published before they noticed that Nieminen had already been tagged the “food police”.

Nieminen says he wears the nickname with pride, because in his view the guidebook has been successful. In future every new police trainee will receive a copy of the handbook, the first of its kind to be distributed in the entire police organisation. So far, Nieminen said, the reception has been positive.

“When we began our 10 months of on-the-job training in December 2016, it wasn’t long before we noticed that night shifts mess with your body. After a couple of months we decided to do this,” he explained.

Kebabs all round

One problem that officers working the 12-hour shifts face is the fact that meal breaks are few and far between. That means when they finally have a chance to eat, they over-indulge. On top of that, very often the only diners open are fast food outlets.

During the training period, the recruits realised that they performed better during the night shift if they managed to prepare their own meals to take to work. However up to one-quarter of field officers admitted to frequenting fast food restaurants on their graveyard shifts.

”Of course people go there on weekends. You notice that the more you bring home-cooked meals and the less you eat fast food, the better you perform,” Nieminen observed.

Other police academy students have pointed out that their patrol partners’ eating habits can be contagious and the temptation to grab a fast meal grows if a senior officer decides to order a pizza, for example.

“If your patrol partner wants to go for a kebab, you almost have to go along as well,” said one student.

Skip the doughnuts, pack the snacks

The young officers’ guide offers no guidance on donuts, often associated with police work through endless references in popular culture. They pointed out that incoming constables do not necessarily have the same kind of sweet tooth as officers who joined the force decades ago. However for police officers who get late night munchies, they recommend snacking on fruit and quark.

They also suggest stashing the patrol car with other goodies such as protein and snack bars, protein drinks and dried fruit and nuts. Nieminen had another tip for incoming officers who might find it hard to exercise restrain when mealtimes come around.

“It’s best not to eat your money’s worth at restaurants even if you have the time and can take as much as you want. It’s quite hard to run on a full stomach,” he advised.

Food cop Nieminen said that he hopes that the nutrition manual will also become reading material for veteran field officers, but he said he is not sure how to make this happen. For now around 200 copies of the guide have been printed for distribution to students in the next three course intake groups.

“The guide primarily targets students beginning their on-the-job training, because it’s easier to influence young people. They have not yet formed bad eating habits.”

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