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Former mayor-for-life and Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry has some advice for D.C.’s police officers: get in shape.

After getting breakfast from a store near his new house on Talbert Street SE, Barry says he was on the phone in his car he witnessed a “rather plump” Metropolitan Police Department officer chasing a suspect. Barry doesn’t know why police were chasing the guy, whom Barry had just seen a few minutes earlier in the very store where he’d bought his breakfast. (Barry says he doesn’t know the name of the store, but called it a “community store.”)

Barry says the oversized police officer “couldn’t even come close to catching this guy,” and believes the suspect made a clean getaway. Another witness, who asked not to be identified, saw the foot chase, and also described one of the pursing officers as overweight.

“They need to get in better shape,” Barry says of D.C.’s finest.

Interestingly enough, the D.C. Council is set to consider a bill tomorrow that critics say could weaken physical fitness standards for MPD officers. The Omnibus Criminal Code Amendments Act of 2012l would transfer the power to set minimum physical fitness standards for police officers from the Police Officer Standards and Training Board to the police chief. The proposed legislation would only allow the POST board to make “recommendations” to the chief as to what the physical fitness levels will be, “which would allow the chief to relax those standards, in her or his discretion, below the minimum standards that the board believes should be required,” says the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU is advocating for several changes with the omnibus bill, which they say unwisely guts many of the POST board’s powers.

A spokeswoman for the police department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the current status of physical fitness limits for MPD officers. Police union boss Kris Baumann says the only physical fitness minimums an MPD officer has to meet are when they are first hired, and there are no ongoing benchmarks to meet once they are on the force.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery