Fears over fitness of the not-so-thin blue line

editorial image

Hundreds of bobbies are failing fitness tests each year, latest figures reveal.

Chiefs overall have declared themselves satisfied that the majority of officers do make the grade, but concerns remain about the remainder.

Only months ago it was shows that more than 100 Greater Manchester officers of various ranks - including some in Wigan - had flunked the exercises. More than 1,800 police fitness tests were failed in the space of a year.

Results released by the College of Policing show that the basic fitness test was passed 92,093 times between September 2014 and August 2015 - 98 per cent of the total 93,956 times it was taken.

Concerns were raised by the Police Federation that several thousand officers had not been tested, and that some forces had recorded significantly more tests than they have officers.

The College of Policing collated figures that showed a lower proportion of female officers than their male counterparts made the grade.

Of the 23,154 times that a woman took the test, 22,095 or 95.4 per cent were passed; while for the 67,376 times a male officer took part, 66,619 were passed - or 98.9 per cent.

Two forces of the 43 in England and Wales were unable to provide a breakdown of results by gender, but figures from the rest showed that 757 tests were failed by men, 1.1 per cent of the total taken, and 1,059 by women, 4.6 per cent of the total.

National lead for fitness testing, assistant chief constable Jo Shiner, said: “These results show that the vast majority of officers tested were fit and meet the standard required of them to protect the public.

“We know from previous years that slightly fewer female officers are passing and the College of Policing guidance on fitness tests has been carefully designed to support officers who are in this position - including advice on positive action measures such as specialised training and mentoring programmes.

“The public want their officers to be fit and able to protect them in the face of danger and these results show they are able to do just that.” The basic fitness test, that became compulsory in 2014, requires officers to run 525m in three minutes 40 seconds or less. Those who fail are allowed “at least two retakes” but officers who fail repeatedly can face disciplinary action.

Andy Ward, deputy general secretary for the Police Federation, said the figures show several thousand officers have not been tested in the past year, adding: “The expectation is that officers who are routinely deployed in public-contact roles will undergo annual Personal Safety Training and therefore take the test.

“It is apparent that several forces have faced a logistical challenge in testing their officers, which has not been helped by shrinking police estates and limited resources to administer the tests as a consequence of cuts to policing budgets since 2010.”