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Pennsylvania Police Ignore Progressive Physical Testing Trends

Eighty municipalities across Pennsylvania have bucked the progressive trend towards the elimination or reduction of physical agility tests, and have instead implemented a rigorous physical test which involves jumping over a 6 foot wall, and dragging a 185 pound dummy for 50 feet. Police in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania administered the new test the weekend. Of the 17 recruits, only nine passed the test and were able to progress to take the written exam. The agency has not released the gender breakdown of the recruits. Butler Township, Pennsylvania Police Chief Charles Altmiller commented that “police chiefs like the new physical fitness test because it’s so oriented to police work.” This chief’s statement is contrary to the overwhelming research which suggests that tests like the 6 foot wall are irrelevant to police work, starkly evidenced by the fact that many departments have policies that explicitly instruct officers not to jump over anything when they can’t see what is on the other side. Extensive research has found that the majority of police work involves communication and administrative skills, and that one of the most effective skills an officer can bring to policing is the ability to defuse a potentially violent situation, a skill that many women are apt to have. Police reform advocates across the country have spoken out against many police department’s use of excessive physical agilities testing requirements, finding that they often lack any real basis in actual police work, and work to eliminate women and small men from the recruit pool. Additionally, the fact that the majority of departments require tests only upon entry, and never test again for the duration of an officer’s career, further corroborates the fact that these standards do not truly reflect what it required of an officer once on the job. The National Center for Women & Policing advocates the use of tests that more accurately reflect police work by placing importance on communication and cognitive skills, in addition to testing for basic physical fitness.

Sources:

Associated Press, 12/16/02