Opininon: Not fit? Lower salary

POSTED: 03/19/12 12:25 PM

In July of last year Commissioner Carl John announced during the presentation of fourteen new police recruits that the local force will introduce an annual fitness test. That’s about to happen this year, but so far we haven’t heard anything anymore about this lofty initiative. Maybe this hangs together with the setup of the police training center in the old BBW-complex in Sucker Garden.
We asked the question about a fitness test last year after reports that policemen in the Netherlands are out of shape. Knowing that quite some of our police officers are rather overweight, we thought that the local police force is in this respect not all that different from its Kingdom colleagues in the Netherlands.
Commissioner John said that officers who don’t pass the fitness test won’t be allowed to go on the streets. Justice Minister Roland Duncan added on the same occasion that officers will get training with job-simulations for situations like fire and terrorist activities. “Our officers need to be fit, not only physically, but also mentally.”
Well said, we thought, but at the same time we wondered how police officers who fail a fitness test are going to get fit if desk duty is their punishment for being out of shape. Wouldn’t it be better to send them to the bicycle patrol?
Yesterday we learned from a report in the Volkskrant that British police officers also have a fitness problem. A report about the condition of British police officers notes that 52 percent of them are overweight. One in five officers – an astonishing 20 percent – is obese.
The British seem to have a more pragmatic approach to keeping police officers in shape. At least, the authors of the report do: they recommend lowering the salaries for police officers who fail their fitness test three times in a row.
While this may sound harsh to some, we figure it is not unreasonable. After all, if the test has to be taken once a year, the perspective of a lower salary gives overweight and obese officers three years time to get in shape.
Starting next year British police officers must be able to maintain a running speed of 8.8 kilometers per hour for at least 3 minutes and 35 seconds. These weird figures probably have to do with the translation of miles into kilometers (the figure remains weird though, because 8.8 kilometers is 5.468 miles). To put it differently: British police officers must be able to run 525 meters and 55 centimeters in those 3 minutes and 35 seconds.
Maybe it is easier to fall back on the good old Cooper test. Designed in 1968 for the American military by air force colonel Kenneth H. Cooper (the inventor of aerobics) the test provides a scale to measure someone’s condition based on age and sex.
The test requires participants to run for twelve minutes. The distance they manage to cover indicates whether their condition is very good or, on the other end of the scale, hopeless.
So what does the Cooper test require from a male police officer in the 20-29 age category? If he runs 2,800 meters or more he is in very good shape. An officer hitting the 2,800 meter mark in the allotted time would cover a bit more than 836 meters, almost 60 percent more than the British minimum test requirement. A female officer in the same age category is very good if she covers 2,700 meters or more.
If the male officer covers only 1,600 meters (1,500 for his female colleague or less, his condition is “very bad” according to the Cooper-scale.
For older officers the numbers go down but not by much: in the 40-49 category for instance, running 2,500 meters or more in 12 minutes is considered very good for male contestants, and 1,400 meters or less is considered very bad. The difference of 200 meters on either side of the scale amounts to less than 28 centimeters per second.
Compared to the Cooper test the fitness requirements for British police officers are very mild.
They even get another five years before another element will be added to the test. By 2018 officers must be able to scale a wall. Until that time fit burglars are going to have a ball in the UK.

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