Every week, county police officer gathers at Kinder Farm Park, organize themselves, fan out and get busy running down trails, jumping, grunting and sweating.

They're not chasing down criminals, but they're getting in shape to do just that — and to live a healthier life on and off the job.

For 12 weeks, beginning Feb. 18 and ending May 9, officers and civilian employees of the Police Department are competing in the Fit 4 Duty Challenge, an initiative of Chief Kevin Davis to get his workers into better shape and to promote healthy lifestyles among the rank and file.

"Being in shape is an integral part of this profession, and working out in a group setting builds camaraderie and a sense of accomplishment," Davis said in a statement.

For the challenge, participants compete in groups of six. The goal of the competition is to lose the most weight, measured as a percentage of total weight. In addition to a winning team, the winning man and woman will be declared.

Lt. Katie Goodwin, commander of the Anne Arundel County Police Training Academy — and a certified fitness instructor — is heading the initiative. She said her challenge is keeping the officers engaged, and that means offering variety and fostering team-building.

"We try to mix it up," she said. "We'll do cardio, abs, go to the gym sometimes, run outside. They're enjoying it — the camaraderie is great."

More than 100 people signed up for the program. In addition to fitness training, Goodwin also offers education on healthful eating habits and lifestyle tips to benefit overall fitness and health.

"We'll try to do this [competition] once or twice a year, but the ultimate goal is to get [the team] started on what they need to be doing," she said. "The ultimate goal is a healthier lifestyle."

Justin Mulcahy, a spokesman for the Police Department, is among those participating in the challenge.

"The first time I went out and ran, I was so motivated seeing other people doing it," he said.

Mulcahy said he's lost 19 pounds since starting the challenge seven weeks ago. He said getting started was the toughest part.

"It'd been a long time since I ran a mile and a half before that," he said.

nadavis@baltsun.com