Saturday, December 28, 2002

Overweight trooper embarrassed

The Associated Press

CANTON, Ohio - A state trooper facing suspension without pay for being overweight says he's received a lot of support since his case became public.Neil Hedrick, 45, said Thursday that co-workers and friends have called expressing support and health clubs have offered to help. A Tae Bo instructor offered free workout lessons.

Trooper Hedrick said none of the reaction has been critical.

The Ohio State Highway Patrol said that next week it will suspend Trooper Hedrick for up to a year because he weighs about 68 pounds more than the maximum limit of 212 pounds for someone his height and age. He will have a year to shed the pounds or be fired.

Because he is about 15 months short of full retirement, he also would lose a quarter of his pension, he said.

Trooper Hedrick said he appreciated the support but was embarrassed by the limelight.

"I've always been kind of private," he said. "I don't want to be remembered as the fat trooper."

Trooper Hedrick, who been with the patrol since 1977, is assigned to the Massillon post inspecting commercial trucks.

He has tried for years to lose weight, he said.

Patrol spokesman Lt. Gary Lewis said the weight standard was needed to help troopers perform their duties and live longer.

Trooper Hedrick said the limit was unfair because his weight, which has bounced between 220 pounds and 300 pounds, doesn't affect how he does his job.

He tried diet pills but they prevented him from sleeping. He signed up for a Jenny Craig weight loss program, but dropped out because it got too expensive.

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