Belfast Telegraph

Police officers set to undergo 'rigorous' new fitness programme

By Deborah McAleese

The PSNI's Chief Constable may have to take an annual fitness test under strict new policing rules.

In a bid to raise overall fitness levels within the PSNI, all officers will have to undergo physical assessment each year to prove they are fit enough for the job.

The first to undergo the annual assessment will be the 756 new police constables due to be recruited over the next two years.

Today the PSNI has launched a second recruitment campaign for police constables after 7,500 people applied for 100 posts last year.

The PSNI hopes to boost the organisation's overall strength to 7,000 officers after a review concluded this was the number needed for a "resilient PSNI".

Acting Deputy Chief Constable Alistair Finlay said the organisation hopes to create 378 new constable posts this year and 378 next year.

Part of the intensive assessment process for candidates is the physical competency assessment.

The assessment comprises of an obstacle course – based on physical activities that officers are likely to come across on the job – which must be completed three times within 3.54 minutes.

If a candidate fails the assessment they are immediately disqualified from the recruitment process.

It is the same physical assessment that serving police officers are going to have to undergo on an annual basis.

"Very reasonable questions have been asked about why we test fitness at the beginning and then forget about it. We have people who operate in a lot of specialist roles undergo fitness assessments, but this type of fitness test will incrementally be included for all officers over the next few years," said Mr Finlay.

Currently, only beat and patrol officers and some specialist units within the PSNI have to undergo physical testing.

The new rules have not yet been finalised, but it is currently being debated whether the Chief Constable and his team of top officers will also have to take the annual fitness test.

No sanctions will be imposed on officers who fail the test, but they will be expected to work with PSNI trainers to bring their fitness levels up to standard.

Several thousand hopefuls are anticipated to apply to join the PSNI during its second recruitment drive.

Mr Finlay said that the number of people to apply during the first recruitment drive which was launched last year showed there was "interest, appetite and enthusiasm" from people right across Northern Ireland to join the PSNI, despite the dangers that officers face.

"Northern Ireland does have its own danger... but we have the training and the equipment to minimise harm. If you look at the number of times we are involved in arresting people who are violent, the number of people who are seriously injured is relatively limited," he added.

Mr Finlay warned that the recruitment process was "rigorous" as it has been developed "to ensure that the very best candidates will go forward".

He added: "We are looking for people with a real desire to be a police officer, who understand it is a 24-hour day service. It involves a lot of commitment and can be a physical job and they are required to keep themselves fit to do it."

For information on joining the PSNI go to joinpsni.co.uk.

Factfile

The PSNI is hoping to recruit 756 new police constables over the next two years.

During its first recruitment campaign in three years, almost 7,500 people applied for 100 posts. Around 35% of those applicants were female. A second recruitment drive is being launched today.

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