Fit for policing: are “porky PCs” the real issue?

4 June 2015

Earlier this week Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe pulled no punches when he argued that “porky PCs” should be sacked. At 57, having recently passed the annual police fitness test with no preparation, he claimed the current expected standard is too low. As a result it fails to weed out those unfit for service.

The test itself comprises of a bleep test and takes as little as three and a half minutes to complete. Nationally it has a pass rate of 97 per cent (for males this is 99 per cent).

Until September 2013, the only fitness test faced by officers was on entry. Sir Tom Winsor’s review recommended introducing an annual assessment to ensure fitness is maintained and the Coalition Government implemented this. Shockingly, under the previous system 64 per cent of officers were overweight or obese.

Reform has long argued that the police service must be fit for purpose. For front-line officers this must include robust fitness testing. As Hogan-Howe rightly argues, the public and colleagues do not want officers “waddling down the road” when they call for help.

However, the nature of policing is changing. A recent report by the College of Policing identified that demand is diversifying. New challenges have arisen in the form of more complex crimes. In this context it is important to evaluate who should be subject to fitness requirements.

The growth of new crime types such as cybercrime and terrorism requires different core skills. Few would argue the ability to chase down a burglar will aid an analyst in the war against online crime. For these specialists, fitness testing may not represent value for money.

In this new environment, and with officer number likely to fall further, addressing the issue of “porky PCs” is one important but small part of the skills challenge. Designing a more flexible, smarter workforce fit to address complex modern threats must be the priority.

Elizabeth Crowhurst, Researcher, Reform

Comments

Comments

Once a Cop

21 June, 2015

Many officers in one large metropolitan force were amazed that their senior command team exempted themselves from the annual police fitness test. then to their amusement one ACC ensured that no media photos or newsreel showed him below his shoulders, as he appeared obese. If police officers are to be fit it should be everyone.