Police chiefs in New Hampshire are urging lawmakers to pass a bill that would eliminate fitness test requirements in a bid to hire and retain law enforcement officers.
According to Hinsdale Police Chief Charles Rataj, the fitness test — which includes push-ups, sit-ups and a 1.5-mile run — is too difficult for a wide swath of potential officers and impedes hiring.
“I would rather have a large, strong officer who just can’t do 20 sit-ups with me as opposed to no officer at all,” Rataj told the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. “Or I would rather have a detective lieutenant who’s outstanding at investigating sex offenses and who is in her mid- to late 40s and just can’t run a mile and a half without hurting her hips.”
Currently, the New Hampshire Police Standards and Training Council fitness test requires officers to complete the sit-ups, push-ups and run in a limited time frame that varies based on gender and age. According to the current guidelines, men aged 18 to 29 must do 37 sit-ups in a minute, 27 push-ups and run 1.5 miles in under 13 minutes. Women in that age group must complete the run in just over 15 minutes and do 31 sit-ups and 14 “full body” push-ups or 22 modified push-ups from their knees. State troopers have higher standards.
As officers age, the time limit for the test gets longer and they are required to do fewer sit-ups and push-ups. The test must be completed to become certified, and then completed again every three years to remain certified. If they cannot pass the test due to injury, recent surgery or fitness ability, officers may procure a waiver.
House Bill 113 was not opposed during its committee hearing, but 16 out of 31 people who submitted online testimony opposed the bill, with one respondent urging lawmakers to instead raise the fitness standards.
So far, the bill has split police chiefs in the state.
According to Northwood Police Chief Glen Drolet, half of the state’s approximate 200 police chiefs responded, with 62% supporting eliminating the fitness test, 29% opposing and 9% stating they were unsure.
The New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police and the New Hampshire Police Standards and Training Council did not take positions on the bill.
Director John Scippa said the state is the only one in the country that requires repeat fitness testing. “The police academy’s position is that we really want to encourage and build out a program that’s going to help officers stay well and be resilient across their entire career,” he told the committee. “Part of that resiliency is based on their level of fitness. It’s been demonstrated time and time again how important it is for those officers to have a level of fitness that will help them get through their challenging careers.”
Scippa said the council is considering using a different kind of test to measure officers’ ability.
The committee said more study is needed to decide on the bill, with some members wondering whether lowering fitness requirements could lead to a rise in workers’ compensation claims if officers are not properly fit for duty. Chairman Terry Roy formed a subcommittee to gather more information and consult with Scippa on amendments or alternatives to the bill before it can go to the floor of the House for a vote, and potentially onto the Senate.
New Hampshire is not alone in considering reducing fitness standards for law enforcement. In New York last year, the NYPD lowered its fitness requirements in an effort to mitigate staffing shortages and boost recruitment.