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Police Officer Physical Ability Testing: Re-validating a Selection Criterion

NCJ Number
Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies and Management Volume: 24 Issue: 1 Dated: 2001 Pages: 8-31
Gregory S. Anderson; Darryl Plecas; Tim Segger
Lawrence F. Travis III
Date Published
24 pages
This article describes the methods used to “re-validate” the Police Officers’ Physical Abilities Test (POPAT) and then compares these methods to those used previously in test development, with the legal dimensions discussed.
The aim of this study was to determine the genuine occupational requirements of general duty police work, and use the information to re-validate the Police Officers’ Physical Abilities Test (POPAT) used in the police recruit selection process. A systematic random sample (n=267) of general duty police officers completed two questionnaires: one concerning “average” duties, and one concerning the most physically demanding critical incident occurring in the 12 months prior. Of those completing the survey, observational data were collected on every second officer (n=121), recording all physical activities and movement patterns observed throughout a ten-hour shift, involving ride-alongs with officers on patrol. The data suggests that there is a core of genuine occupational requirements for general duty police work: walking, climbing stairs, manipulating objects, twisting and turning, pulling and pushing, running, bending, squatting and kneeling, and lifting and carrying. Many of these are involved in physical control of suspects, and can be tested using a well-designed physical abilities test that simulates getting to the problem (typically involving a pursuit or “catching up to” the suspect), controlling the problem (typically involving a physical struggle and arrest), and removing the problem (typically involving the tasks of lifting or dragging a suspect, or carrying confiscated material). A task analyses demonstrated that the physical nature of police work does not change, at a given rank, with years of service and yet, there are no mandatory fitness or physical abilities requirements for officers past their probationary period. The study suggests that from a legal standpoint, if physical fitness is truly job-related, all law enforcement officers should be required to maintain the same levels of fitness. References