Suffolk: Police Failing Fitness Tests

12 February 2014, 11:10 | Updated: 12 February 2014, 17:27

Hundreds of police officers have failed fitness tests since they became compulsory, with Suffolk Police reporting the highest percentage, figures have shown.

More than one in 50 of the candidates who have undergone testing since the autumn have failed to make the grade, and two-thirds of those who didn't pass were women.

Compulsory fitness testing was introduced last September, and for the first year officers who fail won't face any punitive measures.

From September this year, those who fail three times will face disciplinary action.

Figures obtained from 27 forces in England and Wales after a freedom of information request by the Press Association showed that of 13,024 officers who have been tested since September, 353 failed, which is a proportion of 2.7%.

Of those, 236 were women, 67% of the total number of officers who failed to pass.

The three forces where the highest percentage of officers failed were Suffolk (7%), Gwent (6%) and Wiltshire (4.7%).

The three with the lowest were Devon and Cornwall, Dorset, and North Wales, where all officers passed.

Compulsory fitness testing was brought in after recommendations by Chief Inspector of Constabulary Tom Winsor.

He said all officers should be made to take a "bleep" test annually - where participants have to complete a 15-metre shuttle run in shorter and shorter periods, reaching level 5.4 - four shuttles at level 5.

Winsor also recommended that from 2018 the tests should be made harder, using challenges based on the type of things an officer might face on duty, but this is being considered by the College of Policing in case it negatively impacts on women.

Claims were made recently that one of these types of fitness tests discriminated against women, for example by including narrow slaloms that are more difficult with wider hips.

Professor Craig Jackson, Head of Psychology at Birmingham City University, said the gender-neutral timed obstacle course, used to mimic some of the challenges faced by police officers, was "not fit for purpose".

He said: "Police forces have a number of officers labelled fit when they're unfit, and they're screening out officers who are fit - they just happen to be female."

27 forces provided figures for how many officers had taken fitness tests since September and how many failed, with a breakdown by gender.

Suffolk police told Heart:

Suffolk Police follows College of Policing guidelines introduced in September 2013 around compulsory fitness tests for police officers.

Unlike many other forces, when running the tests Suffolk Police uses national guidelines for new recruits and transferees where the participant must first complete a warm up to level 3 before the full test begins.

Deputy Chief Constable Paul Marshall said: “Whilst mandatory fitness tests were introduced nationally in September 2013 they have been in place in Suffolk for six years. As such we have been proficient in carrying out tests, with these figures representing 90% of our operational officers – a larger percentage than many other forces.

“Therefore, while there is clearly room for improvement, we still have 93% of our officers who have passed.

“We pride ourselves in having professional and dedicated officers who are able to offer the residents of Suffolk the best possible service and this includes everyone having a sufficient and relevant level of job related fitness.

“We rigorously follow the national guidelines in relation to the completion of fitness tests and all of our officers are aware of what is required of them. If anyone is to fail the test then words of advice are given around improving their levels of fitness and programs can be offered to support this process.”