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PSNI still not tested regularly for fitness despite 2014 promise

By Jonny Bell

Published 23/11/2016

Most police officers do not have their fitness routinely tested - despite a pledge two years ago from the PSNI to introduce regular assessments
Most police officers do not have their fitness routinely tested - despite a pledge two years ago from the PSNI to introduce regular assessments

Most police officers do not have their fitness routinely tested - despite a pledge two years ago from the PSNI to introduce regular assessments.

Following a Freedom of Information request, the Stephen Nolan Show on Radio Ulster revealed that once police officers pass their initial recruitment fitness test, they may not be tested ever again.

Part of the intensive assessment process for recruits involves a physical competency assessment. It consists 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 three minutes and 54 seconds.

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

Once they enter the ranks, some specialist units within the PSNI have to undergo physical testing, but most officers do not.

It comes after it was revealed earlier this year that more than 2,000 pairs of trousers over a 40in waist were handed out to police officers.

By contrast firefighters are routinely assessed on their fitness. Ambulance crews, however, do not have any physical test prior to joining or after.

PSNI head of human resources Jude Helliker said: "Police officers within the PSNI undergo physical assessments prior to appointment, on completion of the Student Officer Training Programme and within Post Foundation Training.

"Annual in-service physical assessments are conducted within all PSNI specialist units. At present, annual in-service physical assessments are not mandatory for all PSNI officers.

"PSNI is currently considering the implementation of annual in-service physical assessments for all police officers in line with our commitment to their health, safety and wellbeing.

"We wish to ensure that we have a sufficiently resilient workforce that is able to meet the challenges of policing and to keep the public safe."

In an interview for the Belfast Telegraph in May 2014, Acting Deputy Chief Constable Alistair Finlay said the force would introduce regular physical testing for all officers - which could have included the Chief Constable and senior management team.

"Very reasonable questions have been asked about why we test fitness at the beginning and then forget about it," he said.

"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."

The Belfast Telegraph asked the PSNI when the tests would be introduced. It has yet to respond.

The Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, said the perception that the PSNI workforce was unfit was wrong.

Chairman Mark Lindsay said: "It has to be stressed this is not an unfit workforce.

"There is an onus on officers to maintain a level of fitness and there are certain units which are tested. The numbers (unfit) would be minimal."

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