Unfit officers taken off frontline

Hundreds of police officers across the country have been withdrawn from the front line from today and told not to interact with the public, after failing a key fitness test, it has been revealed.

Police officers are required to pass a physical competency test (PCT) every two years. Some 95.3% - or 7270 constabulary staff - hold a PCT certificate.

A confidential memo obtained by the Otago Daily Times reveals those officers who do not hold a current certificate ''cannot have any face-to-face contact with the general public''.

Deputy Commissioner Mike Bush confirmed that from today all constabulary employees - constables, sergeants and senior sergeants - must hold a current PCT in ''order to be operationally deployed''.

As of the 27th of February, 361 district staff had no current PCT, he said.

"[Today's] change means the public can be assured that all of our frontline staff are fit and able to carry out their responsibilities.''

He said the police workforce was ageing, but frontline staff needed to be ''fitter, faster and stronger than ever before'', and needed to be in peak physical condition.''

We do not expect that the very small number of staff not currently PCT-certified will have any effect on the front line, meaning capability and capacity will not be compromised.''

However, an officer in the Southern district said as a result of the crackdown, ''Morale is real low, real low''.

The officer also issued a blunt warning about the changes.''

It is the front line that is going to suffer, because these people are coming off the front line.''

Asked to respond, Acting Southern district Commander, Acting Superintendent Steve Caldwell, said: ''Policing can be a physically demanding job and our staff need to have the capacity and capability to be able to perform their duties effectively.''

Of the 557.5 constabulary staff in the Southern district, 23 had not passed the PCT test.

Of those, 19 had been placed on a remedial programme, rehabilitation plan, or were on leave without pay, leaving four required to do PCT testing by March 13.

''This is not a stand down. It simply means that staff are not able to be operationally deployed,'' Acting Supt Caldwell said.

Police were working with staff whose certifications may have lapsed in an effort to bring staff up to the required standard.

While affected staff could continue to wear their uniform, Acting Supt Caldwell confirmed they could not be ''operationally deployed, which essentially means they cannot have to face-to-face contact with the public''.

If officers could not pass the PCT, their suitability for the role would be assessed, he said.

Officers who successfully pass the test receive a biennial payment of $1408, which is part of their total remuneration. In August 2010, Stephen McCarthy (54) died from a heart attack after finishing the PCT in Wanganui.

In 2009, police commissioned a review of the PCT programme, which was completed by the University of Otago in 2011. Today's changes are a direct result of that report.

-hamish.mcneilly@odt.co.nz


How would you fare?
The physical competency test involves completing a 400m course of tasks in this order:

• Pushing a car trailer 10m
• Carrying a car wheel assembly 10m
• Running 200m
• Walking a 5m right-angle beam, 1m off the ground
• Jumping a 1.8m long jump
• Running around cones and under and over hurdles for 30m
• Climbing through a 1m-high window
• Climbing over a solid 1.8m-high wall
• Dragging a body 7.5m
• Climbing a 2.2m-high wire fence.

Completion times for the PCT course vary according to the officer's age and gender

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