In a bid to enhance recruitment efforts and provide aspiring officers with a firsthand experience of the physical demands of policing, the Lancaster Police Department in Pennsylvania has unveiled a new agility course.
The course, showcased to the media as part of the department’s recruiting cycle kick-off, will be incorporated into the physical fitness test for potential recruits starting in March next year.
“We’re just trying to think outside of the box in different ways to help encourage people to join our team.” – Sergeant Todd Grager said.
The training course is designed to simulate real-world scenarios officers may encounter on duty.
According to officials, candidates will navigate through a series of challenges, including receiving a suspect description, quickly exiting a patrol vehicle, climbing over a 5-foot-high wall, crawling under a 2-foot-high obstacle, climbing through a window, identifying a suspect and dragging a 150-pound dummy for 15 feet—all within a strict time limit of one minute and 36 seconds over a span of about 150 yards.
Previously, recruits had to meet physical standards set by the state’s Municipal Police Officers’ Education and Training Commission.
These standards included age and gender-specific requirements for sit-ups, push-ups and runs of 300 meters and 1.5 miles.
While recruits must still meet these fitness standards to enter the police academy, the new agility course serves as the first step in joining the Lancaster force.
Sgt. Grager acknowledged that some candidates found the state standards intimidating.
“They can get through this, and we can train them to go through the academy,” he noted.
The entire process of becoming a police officer takes between four to six months.
The agility course, based on the VA Law Enforcement Work Performance Test Course, sets the Lancaster Police Department apart from other local and Pennsylvania departments, according to Grager.
“It’s important for us to be able to show that we’re being innovative, we’re using new recruiting techniques — things that set us aside from other agencies,” Grager added.
Lancaster Mayor Danene Sorace also expressed her support for the initiative.
“This is really an opportunity for candidates to experience more than just sit-ups, push-ups, and running around a track,” Sorace said, adding that the department, currently approved for 145 officers but operating with about 115, is evaluating staffing needs based on call volume and crime rates.
The city has also experienced a decrease in call volume, attributed to factors such as code enforcement, community engagement and proactive policing. Sorace believes the new agility course will not only attract applicants but also provide them with a realistic preview of everyday police work in Lancaster.
With 34 vacant positions in the department, Grager encouraged potential applicants to try out.
“With 34 vacant positions, it’s essentially your job to lose. We just encourage people who are honest and willing to carry themselves with integrity to apply.”
Interested individuals can apply for a position with the Lancaster City Police through the department’s website.