Police fitness test has to be hard - Police Commissioner Mike Bush

The AM Show 08/07/2019

Police won't be making big changes to their fitness test, despite complaints it's leaving officers physically and mentally scarred. 

The latest issue of Police News, a magazine published by the New Zealand Police Association, contained testimonials from current police staff who've struggled with the biannual Physical Competency Test (PCT). Fail, and they're taken off frontline duties.

I get so wound up in the weeks before I have to sit it that I feel physically sick.

Wrote one officer, who struggled to complete the 400m obstacle course when she returned to the force after having children.

"Weeks before it, I can't sleep. I'd rather run a marathon than do the PCT and it's only going to get worse as I get older."

Other officers said they've pulled hamstrings and suffered knee injuries, and one said she was bound to a desk because after having knee surgery she was no longer able to perform a 1.8m long jump. 

Other tasks officers are required to accomplish in the PCT include climing through a window 1m off the ground, dragging a body 7.5m and pushing a car trailer 10m.

It's about being capable to do things that you might have to do out in the field.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush told The AM Show on Monday. "We want to make sure that we are up to the job."

Roger, a 53-year-old, told Police News the test has barely changed since its introduction in the mid-1980s, and is "far from a realistic compilation of elements encountered on the frontline in 2019".

"It is very much a rarity these days that, with all our appointments, anyone goes over a fence in a foot pursuit."

Another criticism is that as a short test, it relies on anaerobic fitness - a short burst of energy - rather than overall fitness. 

Bush said it was a challenging course, but it has to be that way.

The public really expect their police officers to be able, capable and fit.

"Colleagues expect their colleagues to be fit and able to do the job of policing. The fitter and more able you are, the better decisions you'll make under pressure, under stress. So for us, it is ensuring our people are fit for the job."

A recent tweak to the course saw a beam lowered in height, as officers were injuring themselves falling off it. 

Bush said bigger changes might come next year.

"We do review this test - we've got a comprehensive review already planned for next year by Otago University. It is world-leading."

He said no officers are kicked out of the force just because they fail the PTC. 

"Our physical training officers put people on programmes, help them get fit for the job... We'll help you get there."

It's really important that we keep capable and a diverse range of people in the organisation.

The AM Show / Newshub reporter Dan Satherley