You may have seen us down behind the Gulfport recreation center lately, running around and jumping hurdles, climbing walls, dragging test dummies, and more. This was our second annual physical abilities test, and I’m happy to report that it was very successful!
Beginning in 2012, I implemented a fitness standards and testing program here. This is something I’ve always felt should be essential in law enforcement, and when I was appointed chief in 2010, I set things in motion to make it a reality (up until this point, we had tested applicants prior to employment, but not the incumbent officers). To minimize resistance from the rank and file, I let the officers decide what the standards would be and how they would be applied. A committee of them came to the conclusion that the existing state standards for police applicants would be the best measure.
Although several agencies throughout Florida require their officers to pass fitness tests, Gulfport PD and the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office are the only agencies in this county with such programs.
This test starts an officer sitting in a patrol car with the seat belt fastened and his hands on the steering wheel. On the command of “go,” the officer must unfasten the seatbelt, remove the car keys from the glove box, get out of the car, run to the rear of the car, remove two flags from a belt in cross-draw fashion, open the trunk and remove a baton, close the trunk, and then run 220 yards around the ball field. Following the run, the officer must complete an obstacle course consisting of jumping a 40-inch wall, jumping three hurdles of varying height, running serpentine through a 45-foot section of closely-spaced cones, and low-crawling under 27-inch hurdles for eight feet. After the obstacle course, the officer must drag a 150 lb. test dummy for 100 feet, then repeat the obstacle course in reverse and run the 220 yards back to the car. Once back at the car, the officer must open the trunk and remove an unloaded handgun. After dry-firing the handgun six times in each hand, the officer must secure the gun and baton in the trunk, get back in the car, close the door, put the keys back in the glove box, refasten the seat belt, and put his hands back on the steering wheel. When both hands are on the wheel, the clock stops.
The minimum passing time is six minutes and four seconds.
In 2012, our average time was 5:03. This year, the average was 4:39. That’s an improvement of 24 seconds! Overall, 81 percent of officers improved their time compared to last year. The most significant reduced his time by 65 seconds!
In 2012, three officers required two attempts to pass the test. In 2013, all officers passed on their first attempt, and there were no reported injuries.
These results make it clear that the program is working. Officers are getting in better shape so they can more safely and more effectively provide their crucial service with a lower chance of injury or illness.
I also recently conducted a survey of sworn officers on the subject of fitness for duty. Twenty-three of thirty officers responded to the survey. Of these respondents, 83 percent agree that police officers should be required to maintain a specified level of fitness, and only 26 percent oppose routine fitness testing.
I support the program 100%, and from what I hear from residents, I believe the Gulfport community does as well. Please let me know what you think.