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Suffolk: Calls increase for police officers to improve fitness levels after being branded the worst in England

PUBLISHED: 12:46 17 June 2014

Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore

Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore

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Suffolk’s police and crime commissioner last night stepped up pressure on police officers to improve their fitness levels after they were branded the worst in the country.

Tim Passmore said it was not “remotely acceptable” that Suffolk Constabulary performed the worst in the most recent national fitness tests and renewed demands on the force to overhaul results ahead of a meeting with police chiefs tomorrow.

It emerged last month how 60 officers out of 863 failed the national fitness tests, which will become mandatory in September.

In contrast, all 1,046 officers at Humberside Police passed. The national pass rate was 99%, while it was 93% in Suffolk, the worst score out of 38 police forces in England.

The tests measure endurance and are based on scientific research to match the physical demands of officer safety training.

Rank-and-file officers have complained about the fitness targets after the Tom Winsor review of police pay and conditions suggested last year that officers who fail them could lose their job.

It warned unfit police officers could put themselves, colleagues and the public in danger if they are unable to tackle criminals.

Mr Passmore said he personally found the tests not difficult. They involve completing a series of 15-metre shuttle runs at an ever increasing speed. Reaching the required level, known as 5:4, is the equivalent of running at 5.5mph for 3mins 35secs.

“I am very concerned about the situation regarding fitness at the constabulary. It is not remotely acceptable,” said Mr Passmore, who insisted he will quiz the Chief Constable at an accountability and performance panel meeting tomorrow.

“We want to become the best county and fitness is an absolutely essential component of this ambition. It needs to be put right.

“Being bottom of the fitness table is very disappointing. Among other things, it affects productivity and morale.

“We have got to step up what we do and find a solution to bring everyone up to standard as a matter of urgency.”

Nationwide, failure was previously regarded as a disciplinary offence. In Suffolk, officers are now given support, including a sports therapist and an ex-army physical training instructor, and three months to pass.

Suffolk Constabulary first introduced a similar fitness test in 2009.

However, the report being discussed tomorrow warned: “The constabulary needs to consider changing its engagement approach by removing the ‘anxiety’ messages which it believes creates a sense of fear… and replace this with a hearts and minds approach around ‘Commit to Get Fit’.”

It found more officers failed the tests in December and January, describing them as “reluctant”.

But Matt Gould, chairman of the Suffolk Police Federation, said other forces do not test all personnel like Suffolk Constabulary, rendering comparisons unfair.

He added: “Steps are being taken to alleviate fears that some officers have.”

A Suffolk Constabulary spokesman said: “We have a dedicated and professional workforce, and we want them to have a sufficient and relevant fitness level for their role.

“We have been implementing fitness testing for officers well in advance (of the mandatory tests). Our programme has therefore assessed the majority of all our officers and provides us with a comprehensive assessment of overall fitness levels.

“Our policy remains to support and monitor those that were not successful as we believe there is still some room for improvement.”

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