Fittest Loser winner's tale reflects weighty issue for police officers

  • Karl "Van" Dillenkoffer, enjoying a healthy breakfast as part of his participation in the Daily Herald's Fittest Loser contest.

    Karl "Van" Dillenkoffer, enjoying a healthy breakfast as part of his participation in the Daily Herald's Fittest Loser contest. Courtesy of Karl Dillenkoffer

  • McHenry County sheriff's Deputy Jacob Keltner

    McHenry County sheriff's Deputy Jacob Keltner Courtesy of McHenry County sheriff's office

  • Illinois State Police Trooper Gerald Ellis

    Illinois State Police Trooper Gerald Ellis

  • Illinois State Police Trooper Christopher Lambert

    Illinois State Police Trooper Christopher Lambert

 
Posted5/15/2020 5:30 AM

Many of us fail to eat right and exercise enough, regardless of what we do for a living.

But being a police officer doesn't help, according to experts. And this year's winner of the Daily Herald's Fittest Loser contest can attest to that.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Karl "Van" Dillenkoffer worked 32 years for the Lombard Police Department, retiring as chief in 2002. He weighed a whopping 165 pounds when he went to the police academy at the University of Illinois in 1970, and he came out 15 pounds heavier. As he worked his way up from patrol officer to chief, the pounds kept coming.

"Unfortunately, because of the nature of the job, you don't always have an opportunity to sit down and eat your meals without getting called out to respond to a call," Dillenkoffer said. "So eating fast food on the run is not the best for anyone. Unfortunately, we all did that a lot."

Karl "Van" Dillenkoffer in 2002, when he retired as chief of the Lombard Police Department.
Karl "Van" Dillenkoffer in 2002, when he retired as chief of the Lombard Police Department. - Daily Herald File Photo, 2002

He tried to get into the habit of exercising, but it didn't take. And, "sadly, I was huge 'stockholder' of Dunkin' Donuts. That didn't help at all," he said.

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By the time he started the three-month weight-loss contest in February, Dillenkoffer tipped the scales at 244 pounds. He ended it this week at 195 pounds -- the lightest he has been since attending an FBI training program 24 years ago.

"Police officers should strive to stay in shape as best they can for their own well-being and safety," he said.

That jibes with what Lt. Dr. Jon Sheinberg, founder and CEO of the Public Safety Cardiac Foundation, preaches when he speaks to law enforcement officials. Sheinberg is a full-time cardiologist and a part-time police officer in Texas.

In a January 2020 interview for a federal Bureau of Justice podcast "The Beat," Sheinberg said cops have lower life expectancies than civilians, by a whopping 22 years; they are much more prone to have heart attacks; and they have them at much younger ages, compared to civilians.

He attributes it to several factors: the prevalence of shift work, a lot of sitting on the job, and the tendency to eat "a diet of convenience." He cited a 2014 FBI report that estimated 80% of police officers in the U.S. were overweight, with 40% classified as obese.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

And he pointed out that the Officer Down Memorial Page, which tracks line-of-duty deaths, reports "heart attack" as one of the top causes. In 2019, the top cause was gunfire, followed by 9/11-related illness, automobile crashes, then heart attacks.

It's not just doughnuts and fast food, either. A federal study that tracked differences in behavior between obese and non-obese police officers found the heavier cops were getting far less exercise.

2020 Daily Herald Fittest Loser contestant Karl "Van" Dillenkoffer, with trainer Michelle Jeeninga, at the beginning of the contest.
  2020 Daily Herald Fittest Loser contestant Karl "Van" Dillenkoffer, with trainer Michelle Jeeninga, at the beginning of the contest. - John Starks | Staff Photographer

For the Fittest Loser, Dillenkoffer worked with a personal trainer from Push Fitness in Schaumburg, and he credits her for making sure he did exercises correctly. He also took 4- to 5-mile daily walks around his neighborhood with his wife.

And now instead of burgers and fries, he looks forward to protein-packed salads, doused with a low-calorie balsamic vinaigrette, for dinner, he said.

Honoring the fallen

Today is a somber day for those in the law enforcement community. Police are marking Peace Officers Memorial Day, an annual observance paying tribute to the local, state and federal law enforcement officers who lost their lives or gained a disability in the line of duty in the past year.

The observance, part of National Police Week, this year includes the addition 307 officers' names to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C. They include 135 officers killed in 2019 and 172 officers who died in previous years, but whose sacrifice had gone unrecognized until now.

The roll call this year includes: McHenry County Sheriff's Deputy Jacob Keltner, who was shot to death while trying to arrest a fugitive in March 2019; Illinois State Police Trooper Gerald Ellis of Antioch, killed March 30, 2019, by a wrong-way driver on I-94; and Illinois State Police Trooper Christopher Lambert of Highland Park, killed Jan. 12, 2019, when he was struck by an SUV while helping at a crash scene on I-294.

To see the full roll call, visit nleomf.org/facts-figures/2020-roll-call-of-heroes.

Misbehaving lawyers

What had been a positive trend for the state's legal community took a step in the wrong direction last year, according to the latest annual report from the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission.

The report shows 96 state-licensed attorneys were sanctioned for misconduct in 2019, including 29 who were disbarred and another 48 who were suspended.

That's up from just 75 sanctions, 22 disbarments and 37 suspensions in 2018, but below the five-year high of 129 sanctions in 2015.

According to the report, nearly two-thirds of the complaints the ARDC received about lawyers in 2019 stemmed from a breakdown of the attorney-client relationship, with accusations of neglect being the most frequent gripe. Among the cases that led to a formal complaint from the ARDC, 73% involved allegations of fraudulent or deceptive activity.

• Have a question, tip or comment? Email us at copsandcrime@dailyherald.com.

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