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Nine in ten women pass PSNI fitness test after shake-up

By Deborah McAleese

Published 10/11/2015

A female PSNI recruit takes the gruelling fitness test, which includes an obstacle course that must be completed three times
A female PSNI recruit takes the gruelling fitness test, which includes an obstacle course that must be completed three times
Chief Constable George Hamilton

Nine in ten women have passed the PSNI's fitness assessment since the test was radically changed to address high failure rates among female candidates, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

Before the changes were implemented earlier this year, just over 30% of female candidates passed the gruelling physical assessment.

A controversial section of the test, which simulates a struggle, was scrapped after complaints that the test, known as the push pull, was unfair to women.

The PSNI also changed its one-strike policy so that candidates, both male and female, who failed the test would get a second chance.

The changes were made following serious concerns over the low success rate for female applicants.

In May, before a decision was made to revise the physical test, a senior officer claimed women in Northern Ireland were not fit enough to pass the fitness assessment for potential recruits.

However, the Chief Constable told Policing Board members last week that following examination of the results of a recruitment campaign for new officers in 2013, it was decided to suspend the use of the push pull element in the next two rounds of recruitment.

George Hamilton said the push pull element of the test for specialist selection for serving officers is also under review "to ensure there is no disproportionate effect on female candidates."

He also said that measures were put in place to familiarise new candidates with the tests over a number of weeks.

"These measures have improved the ratio of female candidates passing through to the later stages of selection for campaign two and will continue for campaign three in due course," Mr Hamilton said.

He added: "For campaign two, following all the changes, the failure rate for females has reduced from 63% to 8%."

Campaign three is currently under way.

Policing Board member Jonathan Craig said he was pleased by the increase in female recruits making it through. "There has been concern over the number of female recruits making it through, so anything that helps address that has to be welcomed," he said.

"Issues about the physical test were raised and the PSNI has since addressed them and the action taken appears to be working."

Mr Craig added that he hoped the changes to the physical assessment would encourage more females to apply to join the organisation in the future.

Last month, serious concerns were raised over the lack of female representation within the PSNI, with twice as many men as women now applying to join the force.

New police statistics show just three in 10 people applying to join the organisation are women.

In the first phase of a PSNI recruitment drive, launched in 2013 after a three-year jobs freeze, 7,493 people applied to join. Just 35% were female.

Similarly last year, in phase two of recruitment, just 35% of 5,856 applicants were women.

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