By Rob Shaul
In the US, I could find only two high stakes LE fitness tests for full-time officers.
The first is with the Suquamish Police Department, in Suquamish, Washington, population 4,100.
The second is Colorado Springs Police Department.
By “High Stakes” I’m referring to required fitness assessments for full time officers, the failure of which could lead to termination.
One of the major obstacles to establishing a culture of fitness amongst the Law Enforcement community is the absence of required fitness assessments in general, and having high stakes for failed assessments in particular.
High stakes fitness assessments is one of the tools used by the military to ensure fitness is part of the performance culture.
This newspaper article from 2011 (http://www.kitsapsun.com/news/local-news/suquamish-police-officers-fired-after-department) describes a required fitness assessment which lead to the termination of 3 officers from this 15-officer force. We reached out to the Police Department for more details, but they didn’t respond.
According to the article, the Suquamish Police Department began it’s fitness push in 2004, and it continued to develop from there. The Department built a fitness facility in its headquarters, and authorized officers to train an hour a day on shift. In 2009, the Department began requiring officers to train one hour a day, on shift – thus essentially paying them to train.
Officers could also train at local 24-hour fitness facilities and be partially compensated for membership dues. In 2010, the Department hired local fitness trainers to give all the officers on the force fitness assessments.
The assessment used by the Suquamish Police Department is the same used by the State of Washington at it’s law enforcement academy – 300m sprint, sit ups, push ups, and a 1.5 mile run. To pass, Officers had to reach a minimum score on each event and a minimum overall score.
Officers who failed the first test were given a “corrective action plan” and required to retake the assessment. A second failure resulted in probation, and the officers were given several months to prepare for, then re-take the assessment. A third failure resulted in termination.
According to the article, 13 of the Department’s 15 officers took the assessment, three failed it three times in a row, and were terminated.
Suquamish is located on tribal land, and the terminated officers could have filed a grievance with the tribe. The department is not unionized.
The Colorado Springs Police Department has been methodologically developing its fitness program since 2009 and held it’s first, required high stakes fitness assessment for all department personnel in Q4, 2014. According to a department press release, 97% of the officers passed the initial mandatory assessment.
The CSPD set up a committee of stakeholders, and began by hired an outside consulting firm from Maryland to develop the fitness assessment based on job-related physical tasks. The process included and extensive survey, as well as exercise battery testing on 115 officers to ensure against test bias based on gender or ethnicity.
To withstand potential lawsuits, the fitness assessment has to show job-related validity and no bias.
The resulting assessment consists of push ups, sit ups, Illinois Agility Run and BEEP run.
In Q2, 2013 all CSPD officers participated in a mandatory practice test to gather data and give the officers an indication of their fitness level.
Next, the CSPD worked with a local facility to give officers free access to training facilities, nutrition counselors and fitness trainers. CSPD officers had access to these resources for all of 2014.
In December, 2013, the CSPD announced that the fitness assessment would be high stakes, and mandatory, beginning in Q4, 2014 – giving officers a year to prepare.
Officers who fail the test are put on “light duty” put on a 6-month “Performance Improvement Plan” until they can past the fitness assessment. As well, the officer with be required to do a mandatory fitness evaluation and retest every 30 days. During these retests, the officer must show “continuous improvement.” If the officer meets the minimum score, he/she will be returned to full duty.
If after 6 months the officer still hasn’t met the minimum fitness standards, the officer will either be required to undergo a full fitness for duty evaluation, or terminated from employment for failure to meet minimum qualifications for the position.
Commander Thor Eells headed up the effort for the Department. I met Commander Eells at the NTOA conference in Alabama last September
Although training facilities and coaching is provided for free, most CSPD officers are not given on-duty time to train. In an email, Command Ells wrote, “ In regards to the on duty time for working out, only the SWAT and K-9 are provided on duty time to work out. The reason for that is that their physical fitness requirements are far higher and more difficult than the standard department test. SWAT and K-9 have to take a different bi-annual test to remain on their respective teams.”
In addition to the events required for other officers, the fitness assessment for CSPD SWAT and K9 officers includes a vertical jump, 1RM Back Squat, and pull ups with a 40# vest.
The CSPD is not a unionized force.
Here is a link to the CSPD press release announcing the mandatory test in Q4: http://www.springsgov.com/News.aspx?NewsID=3740