Union police officers may soon have to prove they are physically fit enough to do their jobs.
Police Chief Norman Brune this week told city officials that his department is working with other municipal police forces to institute a uniform physical fitness test.
A timed training course already has been developed by police officers in the St. Louis area. It is located at the St. Louis Municipal Training Academy in Wellston.
“It determines the physical things that police officers are expected to do,” said Brune. “It sets the standard for our officers to maintain.”
A requirement to pass the fitness test will be a part of the Union Police Department’s personnel policy, he noted.
“If we make it mandatory it is defensible,” Brune said. “If they are unable to perform the minimum standard, they are unable to perform the duties of a police officer.”
He explained that officers are sitting in a patrol car at the start of the course. They must run a total of 200 yards and they will encounter obstacles, including two 4-foot fences they must climb over “to simulate running through a backyard fenced in for a dog.”
“The objective is to help (the officer) stay in shape to be able to perform the job,” Brune said.
There have been three Union officers who already have gone through the course with a time of under 1 1/2 minutes.
“The time set for the course is around 2 minutes,” Brune said. “That tells me that they’re going to complete it pretty easily.
“This is a very simple course,” he added.
Brune said once the test becomes mandatory, the department will allow for temporary exemptions if the officers fail the test.
He explained that if an officer fails the test once, they can retest that same day. If the officer fails again that day, the officer is placed on “light duty” or “approved leave.” The officer is scheduled to take the test again in 30 days.
If officers fail the test after the first 30 days on light duty, they are scheduled after an additional 30 days and remain on light duty.
“(The officer) is not physically ready to go back on the street,” said Brune.
If the officer fails again on the third testing day, that officer still is on light duty and another testing day is scheduled 30 days later.
If an officer fails that test, the officer is terminated, Brune noted.
“They are either able to do their job or not,” he said. “It’s what citizens expect of officers and it’s what other officers expect.
“If you are not physically fit to do the job, then you lose the job,” he added.
The police department is expected to make the fitness test a requirement in the fall of 2015
“That gives them 1 1/2 years to get ready,” said Brune. “To be honest, they (Union officers) all should be able to pass this test.”
For now, the officers will be required to take the test at the St. Louis Municipal Training Academy, but equipment for a similar course to be built in Union could be purchased for about $100.