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N.H. police chiefs ask lawmakers to drop required fitness test

The test, according to chiefs across the state, is making it difficult for departments to hire and retain officers


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Do you agree with the chiefs’ proposal? Take our reader poll here and share your opinions on this topic in the comment box below.

By Sarah Calams

CONCORD, N.H. — New Hampshire police chiefs came together this week to make a plea to lawmakers as departments continue to be plagued by staffing shortages statewide.

The chiefs, including Hinsdale Police Chief Charles Rataj, told the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee that the required fitness test is making it difficult for departments to hire and retain officers, the New Hampshire Bulletin reported. As a result, they’ve proposed a bill that would eliminate the test for law enforcement officers.

“I would rather have a large, strong officer who just can’t do 20 sit-ups with me as opposed to no officer at all,” Rataj said. “Or I would rather have a detective lieutenant who’s outstanding at investigating sex offenses and who is in her mid to late 40s and just can’t run a mile and a half without hurting her hips.”

The fitness test is currently required by the New Hampshire Police Standards and Training Council. Officers must complete sit-ups, push-ups and a 1.5-mile run in limited time. The completion time varies by gender and age. The test standards, according to the report, are higher for state troopers. Officers must pass the fitness test in order to become certified. They are also required to repeat the test every three years to remain certified.

The bill, House Bill 113, divided the state’s police chiefs. According to the report, 62% supported eliminating the fitness test, 29% opposed the idea and 9% were unsure.

“The police academy’s position is that we really want to encourage and build out a program that’s going to help officers stay well and be resilient across their entire career,” John Scippa, director of New Hampshire Police Standard and Training Council, said. “Part of that resiliency is based on their level of fitness. It’s been demonstrated time and time again how important it is for those officers to have a level of fitness that will help them get through their challenging careers.”

Scippa said the council is open to moving to a different kind of test that would “more accurately measure officers’ ability to do their job.”

NEXT: Ohio sheriff: Fitness standards keeping cadets from taking final exam


  • Standards were set for a reason. Law enforcement is physically demanding, and sometimes dangerous work. Eliminating basic physical fitness standards opens departments up to myriad negative outcomes - injured officers, unapprehended miscreants to name a few. And I’m a firm believer that many use of force situations escalate because some of these officers lack the physical abilities and techniques to control subjects quickly and decisively.

  • I understand that it isn’t easy to commit to personal fitness/wellness but the benefits to yourself and your fellow officers outweigh any arguments against being able to meet some pretty basic requirements. I think the fair thing is to establish 1-year remediation plans that get a failing officer on track to pass the test. If they aren’t able to pass it at that point then it would be appropriate to dismiss.

  • Great question. Thank you P1 for asking for opinions and providing this avenue to respond. I am currently the sergeant in charge of the state police academy in eastern WA State. Since the physical standards were lowered in our state to get into the academy I have seen an increase in injuries during the academy and an increase in injury-related surgeries for post-graduate officers that are directly linked to academy injuries and physical stresses. In an era when we are finally accepting that lifelong wellness is vitally important for officers, lowering the standards hurts the officers, hurts the profession and hurts the public. It’s always good to evaluate current systems to consider positive change if needed, and at the same time, it must be said that physical standards for LE cannot be lowered for the above reasons (and probably many more I can’t think of at the moment). Be safe. – Sgt. Dave Adams, Spokane (Wash.) PD

  • I believe officers should be able to pass a minimal fitness test. Please do not lower the test standards. Being a police officer is a dangerous job and other officers need to be able to count on you to help them out when it really COUNTS. If you wish to be a police officer you should be getting yourself physically fit prior to testing. Thank you.

  • I believe that the physical fitness standards should be relaxed, taking into consideration that the average person can’t complete the 1.5-mile run in the required time.
  • Absolutely not. In fact, physical fitness standards should be more widely incorporated in law enforcement.

  • “I would rather have a large, strong officer who just can’t do 20 sit-ups with me as opposed to no officer at all,” Rataj said. “Or I would rather have a detective lieutenant who’s outstanding at investigating sex offenses and who is in her mid to late 40s and just can’t run a mile and a half without hurting her hips.” AGREE!

  • Would the chief be OK if the detective lieutenant died trying to back him up? Also, she could take the bike test instead of run. The other aspect is that out-of-shape officers move to high uses of force faster because they lack confidence in their ability to handle situations. Lowering standards is never the right answer.

  • I think for both the officer’s sake and health care costs during service and retirement, that there should be an annual height weight standard or BMI that takes into account this is not a perfect standard and should accommodate exceptions. There should be a minimal physical fitness test yearly or every 2-3 years that is less rigorous than academy standards.

  • I think this is a horrible idea to lower the standard. In my early career, our agency tried to go to a required fitness standard and some officers balked and threatened to sue. We did not go to this standard, nor implement any mandatory fitness requirement. Later that year I was in a fight for my life, and one of the officers who complained (overweight and a smoker) had what they thought was a heart attack running to help me. As a result, not a single person made it to help me because they ended up having to respond to that officer. I graduated from our academy with the physical fitness award, even though I was the oldest there, and I briefly held the state record for our fitness standard. I won that fight, and every other one in my 23-year career, because I focus on keeping fit and being able to do my job. I’m now 50, with 3 young children, and I still work to maintain a high level of fitness; I owe it to my family, as well as the families of every officer I serve, to be able to do this job and make it home to our families.

  • There definitely needs to be some type of physical testing standard, when we get hired and yearly thereafter. But I have never met a fellow law enforcement officer who ran 1.5 miles in their career. That type of distance is why we have radios and vehicles. I don’t understand why a person’s vertical jump matters in law enforcement either. When I went through the academy we ran through the LEOPAT (Law Enforcement Officer Physical Abilities Test). This was a much more accurate way to gauge someone’s physical fitness and their ability to do real-life, on-the-job tasks.

  • I believe this is a bad idea. The less fit the officer, the more they are likely to use force not sanctioned by their dept. Also, if this officer were on their way to back up their partner and they have a medical emergency while en route to that scene or trying to apprehend the suspect, now, you have the worst of both worlds, an officer in medical distress and an officer who is struggling with a suspect. There are other ways to test a person’s level of fitness than the standard model that has been in use for decades. The Texas Department of Public Safety uses a rowing machine to test officers, and it seems to have worked for them. To remove any standards is a detriment to the officers and the public. I am sure that there are other means to test a person’s level of fitness. Also, let us not forget the officer’s mental health status. Vigorous exercise is beneficial to an officer’s stress level.

  • I retired 16 years ago from the largest department in southern Arizona. Arizona has no requirement for physical standards beyond initial certification. All attempts by my department over my 35 years of service to get some kind of standard failed. In addition, the retirement age was raised to a minimum of mid-fifties. The bottom line, my opinion is yes, we need a standard. But it has to be realistic and fair, and age-adjusted. A comparison might be the fitness of the average 30-year-old Navy sailor is not going to be the same as a 30-year-old SEAL. Once the retirement age went way up, that changed everything fitness-wise. Let’s face it. The average male should not be on the street at age 55. Other assignments, maybe.

  • Healthy officers need to eat and sleep well and move daily. Period. Lowering fitness standards will only increase liability for agencies and officers alike. There are a few other recruitment and retention suggestions that include a fitness incentive bonus for veteran officers. All officers must meet the initial academy fitness standards, but progressive agencies also offer fitness incentives with pay stipends, days off, etc., to continue to promote a culture of fitness and well-being. As for recruitment, lowering other standards might be more appropriate in lieu of fitness standards. I’ve seen many qualified applicants and laterals who failed background for credit score issues, and minor health disqualifications like hearing and eyesight that would be eligible for waivers. Who in our careers and years of service doesn’t have tinnitus, difficulty reading without glasses, or elevated blood pressure? Other areas may include pending or recent IAs or citizen complaints and other admin issues that would otherwise be cleared over time but maybe not before a hiring cycle closes. The other area we lose a lot of applicants is the psych eval, which is often subjective and random. Disqualifications are covert for policy reasons but often unwarranted. In summary, the best solutions involve active engagement and working with agency admin and human resources so everyone is on the same page. Agency culture is also critical to continue to train and mild both new hires and veterans alike. That takes effective leadership from admin and supervisors.

  • No, they should not! Even with staffing shortages, hiring officers who are physically fit (to an extent) is better for the officer’s health, their partner’s trust in that person, and the agency due to insurance and healthcare costs.

  • Physical fitness standards need to be “task” orientated obstacle courses, like that of our brothers and sisters in the fire service. Fire and EMS have been using job task courses for years with great success and a more fair and accurate assessment. The Cooper Standard is no longer supported by Cooper and indefensible in court, plus they no longer meet ADA/EEO standards, but that depends on who’s legal advice you listen to. Fitness needs to be from the academy, and inclusive of every officer, every year, and an obstacle course built on a job task analysis is only fair. If we want our officers to focus on health, fitness and wellness, then physical fitness MUST be a mandatory part from the academy to retirement.

  • Absolutely do not drop the PT standards. I am 58. I have been able to pass the test every year. The standards are ridiculously low and not hard to achieve. The two states that I have worked in do not have a sliding scale for age or gender, nor should they. I know that people get injured and we can modify the test, as the military does. Most cops can’t pass because they do not prioritize fitness. Departments need to allow workout time on the clock and contract services with nutritionists and trainers. How about group and squad PT like SWAT teams do? It builds resilience and teamwork. We already have an early mortality rate that exceeds that of other parts of society. Let’s not make it worse. How about we prioritize a healthy mind, body and soul? Chiefs need to make that a priority, not lobbying the statehouse for lower standards.

  • Yes, relaxed. We work hard at eliminating people for something that really matters little. Obviously, obesity should be a disqualification but when we lose good candidates that can make a difference because they miss the run by any amount is silly. I had never solved a family problem by challenging anyone to a push-up contest but I have by using my mind and intellect.

  • One agency changed the physical fitness test for all officers rather than using it for promotion points making it mandatory. The chief with more than 450 officers said publicly this was the worst decision made during his 30+ years. He lost almost 1/4 of senior officers, investigators and long-term employees who had learned to compensate for their age and abilities. His worker’s compensation claims rose during the testing and many officers medically retired because of injuries in the testing. The OIS increased as the older seasoned officers who knew how to defuse issues rather than resorting to force were gone. Granted the OIS were justified but could have been avoided from the chief’s perspective. My agency dropped the physical fitness requirements for these reasons. The agency in question after several years reverted to its original program.

  • Fitness standards are there so you can defend your life and the life of those you are protecting. If you cannot do the minimal standards for your department, you should not be on the job. The mile and half run under a certain time is not relative to what cops do. I was a police officer for 35 years and in training for 23. You need to have the conditioning to fight for your life or someone else (partner) for a period of time. Lack of conditioning leads to submission and possibly death. Quit making excuses and get your butt in shape. If someone was going to attempt to kill you one year from now in a back alley, no one would be coming to help you. He may attempt to disarm you or shoot you with his firearm. How much would you practice and what would it be on? That day is coming!!!! Get your ass ready!!!

  • They should not be eliminated but they need to be UPDATED. The 1.5-mile run is not a good metric for cardio, nor are the pushups/situps a good measure for core strength. I have known officers who couldn’t run the Cooper to save their lives but could fight you down to the floor and cuff you without any issues. We aren’t all built the same, we all don’t have the same physical abilities. We need a realistic PAT that mimics the physical challenges we face in the field (examples: running through various terrain, hopping fences, going up and down stairs, physically grappling with a “suspect, and doing shooting drills under stress conditions). Let the agility test feature “real-world” activities instead of boilerplate “tests” that don’t give an accurate measure of someone’s overall fitness.

  • Physical fitness is very important. The presence of any overweight or out-of-shape officers gives an impression to the bad guy to fight or run. Lowering the standards by getting rid of physical fitness will lead to even a shorter span for officer longevity.

  • Yes, as realistically most important is not how fast you run but how good your upper body strength is in a fight zone. You’re not going to run 1.5 miles. You are going to have to use your mitts.

  • Should physical fitness standards be relaxed or dropped to improve officer recruitment and retention? No, it should not. Will it be? Almost guaranteed. As a profession, law enforcement is struggling to recruit and retain. The pressure to add manpower is causing many agencies to make some long-term, high-risk decisions in return for potential short-term gains. We are seeing almost every other “traditional” law enforcement standard being either reduced or eliminated – education level, credit history, criminal history, facial hair grooming standards, visible tattoos, uniform wear standards and on and on and on. My agency had a physical fitness policy and I was required to meet the standard every year for 20 years if I wanted to keep my commission. I think it was good overall. It not only improved physical fitness and confidence, but, it reinforced personal discipline and commitment. Law enforcement professionals have always been held to a higher standard and well we should. Accept mediocrity if that’s what you want, but, don’t complain once you get exactly what you’ve asked for. Take care of one another and stay safe.

  • PT tests should be realistic. I have been a lifelong athlete, played football for many years, done MMA and BJJ, and continue to work out 3-5 days a week. This said I was an offensive lineman in my football career and have the build to go with it. I managed my running in the academy but did not continue with that nearly useless exercise after. Sixteen years into my LE career my opinion has not changed. I can count on one hand the number of officers who I want at my side in a fight that are good runners. Officers should be encouraged to train BJJ and do functional strength training. Between the two of these, you will have officers who are strong, flexible, cardiovascularly fit, and, in most cases, have decent mid-range sprint capability. There is no reason to engage in protracted foot pursuits in this climate, so we should not be gauging our fitness standards to them. For all those submitting comments about lowering standards, you need to do some research and realize that building lifelong fitness isn’t a one-size-fits-all do this or you’re fired thing. It’s time we look at how to keep officers fit throughout their career and position them to enjoy productive life after retirement, not look forward to becoming one of the statistics who retires to die at 57 years old.

  • It reads as though the chiefs only want to fill vacancies, not have a viable police department. The medical liability in lowering the standards only increases this liability. I’ve been retired for 12 years. When I came on my class I was the oldest at the time, coming off a 7-year-old hiring list. The academy staff was determined to break us “old guys” to get us to quit. Well they did get us into shape, and our group became the pilot fitness group for future hires. After nearly a full 29 years later I retired. The standards should not be lowered, biannual testing, by age, should be incorporated into the mindset of our leaders. Never lower the standards to fill a position, the officers’ lives may depend on this assessment.

  • Try a different recruiting strategy. Makes no sense to lower the physical fitness score. You will have more people with injuries and health problems, and lower the quality of service for the community.

  • PT should never go away. Officers need to be in shape but not round, although that’s a shape. Bigger does not mean stronger. Officers need to be healthy when starting and the same when retiring. I’m sick of helping to pay for gastric bypass surgeries for others at my agency because they can’t push themselves away from the table. I hope they don’t give in. Wonder what the chiefs who want it gone look like. I had a chief back in the early 90s who told all of us “Get fit or get out.” We need more chiefs like that. I’d rather work short-handed than have to protect an out-of-shape officer because they have zero cardio. Hope they don’t give in.

  • Policing can be a physical job depending on the role and the various situations an officer can be in. I am also not a fan of cookie-cutter statewide physical fitness mandates that do not allow individual departments flexibility in their hiring process. That said, departments should give their officers 3 paid hours a week for physical fitness. For example, an officer who has shot out one or both of their knees may not be able to run 1.5 miles within the required time limit, but they can exercise on a rowing machine with the best of them. But not giving the department a choice in how physical fitness is shown will deprive that department of an otherwise great officer. Giving officers choices to prove their fitness level would be a way to keep those officers. Depending on where they are in their policing career would decide what options are available: 1. New academy recruits – When I joined the Marines in the 80s, you needed to pass a minimum standard to start training at boot camp. If you didn’t pass the minimum requirement, you went to a PFT platoon until you did or the time ran out to get you there. I think this should be done at the police academy as well. Yes, it will potentially cost more money. But when you are short officers, you need options to get new officers on the street. 2. Officers with less than 10 years – PFTs (Physical Fitness Tests) should be given a minimum of once a year. If you fail a test, you have 6 months to pass another test or get released. 3. Officers with over 10 years – Depending on what they do. If they are still in patrol, they are still required to have a yearly PFT. If they are not on a street role, they are exempt. 4. Waivers – if you have a doctor’s note, you have a waiver.

  • There definitely needs to be reasonable physical fitness standards for law enforcement personnel. I was a patrol officer with the Anchorage Police Dept (25 years) and a full-time instructor and range master at our academy for several years. I watched as politics and the administration lowered/changed the physical fitness test for applicants to accommodate folks who were overweight and out of shape but could pass a psychological evaluation and background check simply to get people into the academy.

    We had a PT program that managed to get many in much better physical fitness and some to even get down to a healthy weight, however, many stopped any sort of exercise after the academy since our union would not accept any sort of continuing physical fitness requirement. Many officers became out of shape and overweight and had more injuries and tended to resort to higher levels of force in physical altercations and had more duty-related injuries.

    Hinsdale Police Chief Charles Rataj‘s comment about him rather having a large, strong officer who can’t do 20 sit-ups than none at all is counter to what most cops I worked with believed (including myself). If a cop cannot do 20 sit-ups then I’d wager he/she is likely overweight and certainly out of shape and not much help in any sort of physical altercation. We all get less fit and likely add a few pounds as we age, certainly more likely if we do not engage in some sort of fitness program to combat time’s ravages, but if one chooses to be a cop, then one needs to accept the responsibility of being physically capable of doing the job, not only for their own health but to be a capable backup for their fellow officers, not to mention their families.

    There is a distinct difference between the role and requirements for a patrol officer and a detective. Both should be as physically fit as possible, if for no other reason than their own personal health and safety. However, the physical demands of a patrol cop are much greater than a detective. Many people have the desire to be a beat cop, others not so much, but would rather be an investigator. I’ve seen many cops who, for a variety of reasons (physical fitness being one) were not or did not make good patrol cops, but were outstanding child sexual abuse investigators or other investigators. Law enforcement needs to jettison the age-old notion that you have to pay your dues as a street cop before you can be a detective. How about two separate academies and career tracks? And physical fitness standards appropriate for each?

    But just as disturbing is the trend toward lowering other standards for entry into law enforcement, such as less stringent background checks (or accepting/disregarding negative information/behavior) or lax psychological evaluations, all in an attempt to fill personnel shortages. How about higher pay, better benefits, more comprehensive training, incentive pay for achieving better or higher physical fitness standards on an annual basis, bonuses for outstanding performance or achievement in job performance (not just showing up on time and doing the job)? Make law enforcement a desirable and valuable career field viewed in the same light as other “professions” like medical professionals, lawyers, scientists, etc., with the attendant certification/recertification and credentialing requirements. Then you can demand high standards and fill your ranks with good people.

  • I believe the old Cooper Standard does not realistically test a person’s ability to perform his/her job in law enforcement. Let’s be real, the average foot chase will not last 1.5 miles. You will have radio support, and maybe helicopter and backup units will be on scene before you run may a quarter of a mile. The bottom line, the bad guy gets caught. Hell, we will all be out of breath anyway...some more than others. But, depending on your shift and the call of service, you may not get as many adrenaline-pumping calls as your brother or sister in blue, green, brown, or whatever color uniform. When it comes to idea standards, I think a half-mile run, at most 3/4 miles would serve as a sufficient way to test an applicant’s physical ability, but I do not think he/she should not be hired. I think the results should be used to train and build that person up to the standard you want over a reasonable time period. We all get old and some of us get slow, but we still love doing what we do. In-house testing should be every quarter or twice a year instead of once a year or once every 2 to 3 years. This may help. I do not want to die as a result of a physical encounter.

    Unfortunately, I am part of a department of barely 25 officers. The largest problem we face in recruiting is pay. There really are people working at Walmart who make more than some of our officers starting out. Pay raises are a bad word. People no longer want to do this job/career choice. Think about suit up every day knowing the possibility of someone shooting at you is very real. Whether it’s a big city officer, a small town sheriff or a university officer, it is a hazardous profession and we need to be compensated. I have close to 20 years and have worked for multiple agencies, but at this rate, 25 years of service is not a reality. Thanks for listening. Be safe and GOD bless us all.

  • I agree that law enforcement should have to maintain physical fitness standards. The issue for many officers is that agencies do not or are not able to provide time for officers to exercise while on duty to meet or maintain those standards. Patrol officers, who often work 12-hour shifts, days and nights, and then have the added demands of extra duty details, court appearances and family time, struggle to find time to exercise. Patrol officers also have few or sometimes no meal options available, so proper diets become and issue affecting health and fitness.

  • There are good reasons to have testing; many reasons which were mentioned already. In this particular case, I would challenge the test design. Is the test truly measuring the essential job tasks of a peace officer? When was the last time someone looked at the test and certified this test was accurate? I hope the state can consider this first before elimination.

  • Should PT be relaxed or dropped? No. There is an assortment of updated testing options to gauge general physical fitness/fitness for duty. Rowing tests are an example of a counterargument to the arbitrary 1.5 mile run. As someone who is a lifelong athlete and an endurance coach, also trained as a general “personal trainer,” I see ways to actually make the assessment fun for officers and give them “buy-in” for their general health. Realistic testing germane to our duties is still vital to law enforcement. Summation: one is dishonoring their own health, shift mates and the citizens we protect when one neglects their health.

  • There should be a basic physical fitness standard that must apply to all who enter the profession. The profession is demanding both physically, mentally and emotionally and having a physical fitness regimen introduced from day 1 will help personnel better cope with the stressors of the job, as well as better prepare them to be injury-free and heal faster from any injuries. We should actually be increasing the level of fitness for cadets and encouraging more active personnel to stay physically, mentally and emotionally fit, eat healthier and deal with stress in a more effective manner. Lowering or eliminating standards is a path that will lead to lower-quality employees and higher rates of injury, sickness and lost work hours.

  • I believe in standards, but I don’t believe in absolutes. I would rather see a point-scored system. It’s dumb and self-defeating to prevent an outstanding candidate from becoming an officer because they fail the run by a few seconds. Determine what percentage, 70%, 80%, or 90%, would allow candidates to move forward in their careers, as a state standard. Local agencies could then decide to have higher standards as the state minimum requirements if they so choose.

  • New Hampshire currently requires the 30% Cooper Norms. This is the lowest and least stringent standard of all the New England states. In general, lowering or removing requirements is a bad approach and leads to a less qualified applicant pool and less qualified police officers. The debate about functional vs fitness-based assessments has been debated ad nauseam. I believe that all police officers should be able to work at a moderately high level for at least 15 minutes. The 1.5-mile run is an indirect way to measure someone’s ability to perform work. Beyond measuring fitness, if a male 20-29-year-old is incapable of reviewing simple PFT standards and then training to pass 35 sit-ups, 26 push-ups, and 13:16 for the mile and a half, then he probably isn’t mentally prepared for the job. The answers to the test are right in front of you: Train, prepare and pass.

  • For the health, safety and well-being of the officer in order to preserve the health, safety and well-being of those we are sworn to protect, physical fitness is a requirement of the job, period. The Cooper standards aren’t perfect but they are a standard, a minimum standard, adjusted for age, (never agreed with that) designed to maintain some level of fitness required for the job. Work towards a different fitness standard if the powers that be feel it is more measurable for the requirements of the job, but a level of fitness must be maintained. NH has been ahead of the curve as it pertains to a level of fitness standard. As soon as you start to diminish ANY standard, you have diminished the profession. A couple of misnomers I’d like to point out, one from the article and one from a couple of the comments. The standard for the State Police is the same. You may have to pass at a higher standard to get in THEIR front door but the standard to maintain your certification is the same throughout the state. Secondly, the 1.5-mile run. I always get a kick out of people who think it’s about running 1.5 miles to catch a bad guy. The run is designed to get your heart rate to a certain level and be able to maintain it over a length of time. This is designed to measure cardiac health, for instance, if you are wrestling with someone who’s resisting. Lastly, and this is just food for thought, but I’m a cop and a cynic by nature. I think most reading this article would agree that nearly every agency in the USA is struggling to recruit due in large part to those who tarnished the badge and the media fallout, not because of any unreasonable standards. The law in New Hampshire went into effect on January 1, 2001 (22 years ago). Anyone hired after that date is required to meet the minimum standards every three years, regardless of rank, in order to maintain their certification. I’m wondering what percentage of the 69% of chiefs who want to do away with the test is more of a matter of self-interest. Based on the overall theme in the comments in favor of keeping the standards, I’m going to speculate it’s fairly high, but as I said, I’m a cynic.

  • I am a 75-year-old retired police major. Many years ago I wrote my master’s thesis on hiring standards in law enforcement. First: a sit-up and a push-up are exercises, not a physical standard. Also how many officers have run 1.5 miles to apprehend a suspect? If a state or agency wants to require physical standards, those standards must be job-related. Additionally, if the standards have any application, they should be the same for both females and males, regardless of age. It looks to me as if this program violates federal law under ADA, but I would need more data. Why not test an officer’s eyesight and hearing as well? Push-ups and sit-ups are bogus.

  • I’m 62. I’ve been a police officer since I was 24. My neck has been broken, both knees and both shoulders dislocated. I’ve also injured my ankles and lower back. I am not useless and my knowledge and experience help my fellow officers, my department and my community, but I cannot meet the same physical standards I met 38 years ago. I don’t think I should be fired for that, The standards should change with age.

  • NO, this is crazy. The Cooper standard is not for the elite. I was a NH police officer and took pride in how we had so many officers in good physical shape and a focus on fitness. ANY DAY at ANY TIME it could be the fight of your life.

  • Absolutely not. If I had my way, I would require an annual physical test. Pay for the gym fees for officers and detectives. Also, I would offer pay incentives for officers who routinely lift weights. Those five officers in Memphis who ended up with an in-custody death could not physically handle a slightly built suspect. They were exhausted in their attempt to subdue the guy. This should never be. Policing has changed recently with more suspects resisting arrest. If officers were in better physical shape in many of the cases, the suspect/s and/or the officers might be alive today. I have found over the years the officers who use excessive force do it out of fear, not confidence; fear they might not be able to physically handle the suspect even though the suspect is unarmed and only physically resisting. Policing today is almost an “athletic event.” Officers have to run fast, jump six-foot fences, wrestle people, jump out of windows, pull people out of vehicles involved in traffic accidents, jump and swim in high water to save people, quickly run into burning houses and carry people out, and on and on. THEY MUST BE IN GOOD PHYSICAL CONDITION, PERIOD. A new officer should not have to be forced to stay in shape. If they join to be the best, they would get and stay in good physical condition without being told to do so if they plan to go home every day at the end-of-watch. In my opinion, the most important physical conditioning an officer must work on is: Weight lifting, boxing fundamentals, and sprint and distance running. I taught boxing fundamentals at a major city department. Many cadets had never been in a physical fight. I had every cadet box three rounds at the end of the training. Many thanked me for showing them they could survive getting hit hard and were able to deliver hard punches. It was more of a confidence builder than developing good fighting skills.

    There are many good people out there who would love to be police officers. Most say that if the departments and courts backed them instead of the criminals, they would sign up. An increase in the pay scale would also attract good people. Most police chiefs are under the control of cowardly city or county politicians. Making a police chief an elected official would also greatly help. My opinion: ALL police chiefs should be elected to office the same way most county sheriffs are.

  • A very minimal standard annual test of one overhand pull-up, 10 push-ups, 20 bent knee sit-ups, and running a quarter mile in three minutes would show that the officer has a certain level of physical fitness necessary to accomplish most of the physical needs of the job as a law enforcement officer. Of course, those officers who are into physical fitness recognize that these specifications are not at all difficult for those who work out regularly. However, this nominal test would keep all officers at a level that could keep everyone at this basic fitness level, and this could always be improved.

  • Interesting points pros and cons. I feel there should be some standards for the officers’ health and everyone’s well-being, one MUST be able to physically do the job. Additionally, the mental health benefits are tangible. The mental commitment will carry one through a bad situation just as much as physical ability.

  • This is a complex issue. When I began my career as an LEO, I promised myself that the day I could not meet the Cooper fitness standards of a 20-something male, I would retire. I maintained that level through retirement for many of the reasons mentioned. The NH standard is very lax already. I would not lower the standard, but perhaps adjust the 1.5-mile run to a shorter distance and time. Offering incentives to officers so they can stay fit may help (such as a free gym membership, paid time off to work out, fitness equipment at the station, etc.). If an officer surpasses all of the fitness requirements, give them comp time. If they fail, provide remediation and another chance to try in 8 weeks or so. There are arguments for either side, but the overall health and safety of officers should be reason enough to keep the standards.

  • It may not be the best measure of job performance: While physical fitness is important for police officers, there is a growing recognition that other skills such as communication, problem-solving and conflict resolution may be just as important in performing the duties of a police officer. Thus, relying solely on physical fitness tests may not accurately measure a candidate’s ability to do the job. Physical fitness tests may disproportionately exclude candidates who have disabilities or who are from certain demographic groups. This can result in a less diverse police force, which can lead to a lack of trust and understanding between law enforcement and the community they serve. It may not reflect real-world situations: The physical fitness tests that are currently used may not accurately reflect the physical demands of the job or the situations that officers may encounter in the field. For example, while an officer may need to be able to run a certain distance in a certain amount of time, they may not need to be able to bench press a certain weight or complete a specific obstacle course. While physical fitness is important, it may not be the most reliable predictor of job success. Other factors, such as a candidate’s education, work experience and problem-solving skills, may be better indicators of their ability to perform the duties of a police officer effectively. Overall, while physical fitness is an important aspect of being a police officer, it should not be the only factor considered when evaluating candidates. Other skills and attributes, such as communication, critical thinking and cultural competence, should also be taken into account to ensure that police officers are best equipped to serve their communities.

  • Physical fitness standards should not be relaxed or dropped. The stresses involved in day-to-day police work demand that officers are physically fit. If officers are no longer required to be physically fit when they come on the job, it is not fair to the citizens they police. An unfit officer may not be able to perform the strenuous tasks that officers are often required to engage in therefore endangering the safety of the citizens they serve. Additionally, being unfit can lead to mental mistakes that may cause injury to themselves or their partners. I am really disappointed in the police chiefs who think this is the solution to recruiting officers. If that is the best they can do, maybe those towns should recruit new police chiefs who are more innovative! By dropping physical fitness standards, you are just kicking the issue of medical problems down the road.

  • I believe once an officer has taken the initial physical fitness qualification (as part of certification) that the physical fitness standard is met. We put a lot of money into training officers after certification. Officer skills increase in their communities, and while fitness is to be encouraged, I’m not sure they should be terminated for failing a fitness test post-certification. The best homicide investigator I ever knew would not have been able to pass the entry-level fitness test. His training and knowledge of a critical area of investigation would have been lost to his community and the state.

  • I am an NH LEO. This is a second career after serving 25 years as a CT LEO where 22 of those years were on a part-time SWAT team that was very stringent on physical fitness. There was no state standard in CT once you were out of the academy. I have done my 3rd Cooper since transferring to NH, which I’ve always passed in the 50th + percentile. I feel that the Cooper test is irrelevant and outdated but it is something. I think that creating a realistic PT test through job task analysis would be much more relevant and beneficial to the NH LEO community. I am not sure how the PT standard was adopted but there is a grandfather clause that goes by the date of hire and I was told that the standard was implemented as a result of concern from the state pension fund. The glaring problem I see with that is the police are the only profession with the in-service, tri- annual PT standard and no other first responders fire/EMS have any state required in service PT standard (also in the same pension fund). My $.02, probably worth half that.

  • More focus should be placed on the mental status of officers rather than their physical status. I say this because I have been an officer for almost 50 years, and a Chief for the past 18 years. I have seen the fittest officers fall over dead from a heart attack, anxiety stress, fear and other things. I have also noticed that the mental status of officers has deteriorated over the years. It seems the fittest physical officers sometimes are those who lose sight of what they are here to do. They flex their muscles and let their thinking fall behind. I truly believe that every officer should be mentally evaluated no less than every five years and random drug tested every six months. I say this due to the fact that officers witness things each day that affect them in ways that most people do not understand. Undercover officers often start living the lifestyles that they are supposed to detect. Some become drug addicts or alcoholics themselves. Warriors come back with PTSD, some of which never even saw any action. Believe me when I say, street officers, investigators and chiefs as well have what I call CTSD – CONTINUOUS TRAMATIC STRESS DISORDER – which I believe should be a legal term for a disorder and method of receiving help for those officers. We see things every day that the general public could not fathom. I have a female officer who most likely could not pass a physical fitness test but, she can talk a man out of a gun or knife when the best negotiators cannot. She can calm a mental health consumer when others would have to use force. If there is such a thing as the “BAD GUY WHISPERER,” she is it. Should she be dismissed over not being able to run a 1.5-mile test? Not while I am the chief! I have seen fit officers say HELLO to a person and have to fight them over that. The mind is what we all need to be trained in my opinion. Of course, I have no Ph.D., I simply have a Plain Highschool Diploma!

  • The wisdom of Coach John Scolinos seems appropriate regarding this topic: “Don’t widen the plate.”

  • Yes, after the academy, each officer should be required to pass a minimal PT test annually. It should include 1 overhand pull-up, 10 push-ups, 20 bent knee sit-ups, and a quarter-of-a-mile run in three minutes. This is just to stay ready for normal duty. Of course, action-oriented units such as SWAT teams would have much more rigorous requirements. (One would be surprised how many adults cannot even do one overhand pull-up.) This nominal PT test would be a good starting point to get into good shape.

  • Yes and no. Like many situations, the circumstances will depend. An officer who is physically unable to perform not only will not fail him or herself but will more likely increase the risk to others during the performance of their duties. However, not everyone is going to be able to perform the fitness assessment that is required and has the characteristics sought after in law enforcement, at least not at first. The solution, leave it at the discretion of the supervisors to determine if an individual’s performance or lack thereof would be a cause for concern in the department. During FTO it is crucial for individuals to learn proper techniques and procedures, physical fitness should be among those traits that determine whether an individual passes FTO. With periodic evaluations, it is important to ensure that officer performance continues to complement the department and public in which they serve instead of being a cause for concern. Is it important for an officer to be able to run and move? Absolutely. I would say that it’s just as important to be knowledgeable about laws and regulations.

  • I am also a certified NH LEO working on 40 years on the job. I am so old that I don’t have to pass the PT requirement because I am grandfathered. While the physical fitness proponents, of which I was one when I worked the road, make valid points with which I can not dispute at all, here is the reality that Chief Rataj and almost ALL departments in NH are facing: they are hemorrhaging cops and we are not coming up with candidates to replace them. The writer who said all these chiefs are doing is trying to fill vacancies is absolutely correct. My department is the same size as Rataj’s. We have openings that are going months and months and not getting filled. As a result, we are burning out the people we do have working the road covering the openings. I don’t disagree about the benefits of physically fit officers, but it is naive in my opinion to think that just changing recruitment approaches to get qualified candidates is going to work. It isn’t. And some much higher-paid agencies in this state than mine are facing the same issue. Smarter folks than me need to figure out a workable solution, but agencies all over this state (including the State Police I am told) are facing a looming staffing crisis and part of the problem in recruitment and more importantly retention, is the state-mandated PT testing.

  • First, it is not every police chief in New Hampshire who supports the change. Second, this only impacts testing to keep your certification after the academy, not recruitment to get into the academy. Attending the academy will still require the same test as now. As an NH police chief, I support ongoing fitness testing. The issue is what test, how often and how to make it work. They have already lowered the standard to graduate from the academy and dropped it to 20% for corrections. It has not helped recruitment or retention for corrections.

  • No, fitness standards should NOT be dropped. It is vital that officers be physically fit, for their own safety and that of their fellow officers as well as the public. An injured out-of-work officer is useless. Every agency should have regular fitness testing and physical examinations. If an officer is not willing to put forth the effort to maintain basic physical fitness, he or she needs to find another job. If a jurisdiction is not willing to provide the funding necessary to support this, by either providing gym memberships or a department facility, then the jurisdiction is failing its officers and its citizens. If you want to improve hiring and retention, increase pay and benefits, and use a reasonable work schedule that limits overtime and coordinates court with work hours.

  • I DEFINITELY agree that the physical fitness standards should be dropped. I am a sworn officer and I went to the academy, and the only thing that I got out of that training was my weapons training. Other than that it was nothing that would consider me not to be as great as an officer that I am now. The skills that I have acquired over the years definitely didn’t come from a physical agility test!

  • In my opinion, I don’t think officers have to run a mile and a half to catch a suspect so yeah, I think the physical fitness standard should be dropped.