GULFPORT POLICE DEPARTMENT
MEDIA NEWS RELEASE
Sgt. Robert Burkhart
Public Information Officer
9/16/2011 Police Officer Fitness Standards Implemented
[Gulfport, FL] – Chief Rob Vincent today signed a policy that will, for the first time, require police officers to maintain physical fitness standards. Up until this point, police applicants have been required to pass a fitness test, but once hired, officers haven't been tested again.
When Chief Vincent was appointed last year, he made it clear that this was going to be a priority. "Police officers must be prepared to meet demanding physical challenges at any moment. Their lives and the lives of those they are sworn to protect depend on their ability to stay in the game when the worst of the worst happens," said Chief Vincent, who also expects reductions in insurance and workers compensation claims as the overall health of employees improves.
The police officers' labor contract allows the chief to establish and test for fitness standards. Before implementing the policy, the chief met with union representatives and then designated a committee of officers to review several alternatives and come up with the details, including the type and frequency of testing, as well as the corrective measures for those who cannot pass. The final product contains these provisions:
- A pre-test will take place in October of 2011. The results of this test will not be official.The first official test will take place in March of 2012.
- Prior to testing, a certified trainer will check officers' blood pressure and heart rate. Any showing at-risk results will be required to obtain a physician's clearance to take the test. If the clearance is not granted, the officer will be placed on light duty pending further review.
- Any officer who cannot pass the test will be placed on light duty, and a re-test will take place up to three times at 30-day intervals.
- Any officer who cannot pass the test within 90 days after an initial failure will be subject to discipline, up to and including termination of employment.
The test itself is based on a model that was originally introduced by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and that is currently in use at other Florida agencies, such as the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office and the Florida Highway Patrol. In order to pass, officers will be required to complete these steps within a specified time limit:
- Start seated in a patrol car. Exit the car and obtain mock handgun and flashlight from the trunk.
- Negotiate an obstacle course, including clearing a 40-inch wall, jumping hurdles of varying height, running through a serpentine, and low-crawling under a 27-inch-high by 8-foot-long obstacle.
- Drag a 150-pound object (representing an unconscious person) a distance of 100 feet.
- Repeat the obstacle course in reverse order
- Dry fire the mock handgun
- Re-secure the equipment in the trunk and get back into the car.
Note to media representatives: The exact date and time of the tests has not yet been established. Testing will be conducted on private property not open to the public. We will, however, welcome limited media participation. If you are interested or would like further information, please contact Sergeant Robert Burkhart at 727-893-1051.