Police Dept. Lowers Fitness Requirement To Gain More Recruits

Pennsylvania police departments have faced challenges in recruiting cadets due to the impact of the pandemic and the protests surrounding police brutality following the controversial death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Police are not held in high regard in many parts of society.

Last week, the state House approved legislation that would reduce the minimum fitness requirement for individuals seeking admission to a police academy. The bill aims to address the shortage of officers across the state, which Gov. Josh Shapiro highlighted during his March budget address.

Philadelphia police leaders expressed satisfaction with the state’s new, lower fitness standards, stating they have positively impacted the department’s recruitment numbers

According to Capt. John Walker, the percentage of people who passed the fitness test during a recruitment event last month increased to 51%, compared to 36% at the department’s previous recruitment event, where higher standards were implemented. Out of the 265 applicants, only 100 could pass their entry exams. Capt. Walker emphasized that the written and training standards have not changed.

The decreased fitness requirement results from a recent law tackling the officer shortage in Pennsylvania. Applicants must achieve a performance level that exceeds the lowest 15% of individuals in their age and gender category in various physical tests, including long- and short-distance runs, bench presses, and sit-ups, to be eligible for admission to the police academy. To become a full-fledged officer, recruits must complete the academy with a minimum ranking in the 30th percentile.

Civil rights groups have emphasized that the key to addressing the issue is not simply increasing the number of officers but rather improving their training in handling individuals experiencing mental health crises. House Bill 863 proposes lowering the minimum fitness level for police academy recruits on the standard physical fitness assessment.