'PSNI fitness test is unfair on women because male recruits are naturally stronger'
I would consider myself to be reasonably fit.
With regular circuits and pilates sessions I recently jumped at a challenge to take the PSNI physical entrance test and cockily thought it would be a breeze.
But 60 seconds into the straightforward-looking obstacle course, which must be completed three times in 3.54 minutes in order not to be disqualified from the recruitment process, I realised I had completely overestimated my own personal fitness.
The course includes a stair climb, a run across a balance beam, a climb over a 6ft wall, lifting and carrying two 8kg weights, and dragging a 39kg bag.
Once the course is completed candidates have to display their strength and resistance for 20 seconds on an isokinetic machine which simulates pushing and pulling in a struggle with someone.
All of the obstacles simulate different aspects within the police job.
Consider how physically exhausting it must be for an officer to chase a crime suspect, carry an unconscious person to safety, break up a fight or defend themselves from an attacker, while weighed down by heavy body armour and kit. This, therefore, is one extremely tough test.
Female officers are faced with exactly the same physical challenges as male officers so for their safety and the safety of the public they must have a high level of fitness.
Women joining the PSNI do not expect to be treated any differently from their male colleagues. I have met several female officers who bravely stand on the front line during riots.
When it comes to recruitment it would be unfair for women to have any advantage over male candidates by changing the fitness test rules just for them.
But equally it is unfair that male candidates currently have an advantage over many of the females because they are naturally physically stronger.
Women are greatly under-represented within the force at just 30%. And with just two out of 10 females currently passing the fitness test, the PSNI needs to rethink this part of their selection process to make it fair for all.
It also seems harsh that you can be disqualified from the selection process if you fail the test by even a second.
For the record, I failed the fitness test. And no, I'm not bitter at all.