Union police officers may soon have to prove they are physically able to perform job functions required by an officer.
Police Chief Norman Brune made a presentation Monday, July 2, to the personnel, finance and public works committee on a program being coordinated by the St. Louis Area Police Chiefs Association.
Missouri Intergovernmental Risk Management Association (MIRMA) departments within a four-county region were invited to participate in the initial program to create physical performance standards for participating departments.
“We assess our officers three to four times per year on their performance, including report writing and their ability to speak with people and handle people,” Brune said. “But we do not assess anything in their physical performance.”
Brune said most citizens expect police officers to be in good physical condition in order to be able to handle unruly people.
“They do expect our officers to be in somewhat good physical condition,” he said. “Also, an officer who is in good physical condition is generally able to perform with less injuries. That’s the whole idea behind this.”
The group that will do the study and set up the program has done it throughout the United States.
The program will be focused on actual job-related scenarios officers may encounter.
“We are expected to do some running from time to time, as well as some grappling from time to time,” Brune said. “We may have to go over obstacles or under obstacles.”
Brune said the program is about establishing “clearly defined job-related, validated, physical performance standards by which agencies can measure the abilities of a police officer to safely and effectively perform essential job functions already described in their department policies.”
It’s not, he said, about requiring officers to have a 32-inch waist or 10 percent body fat.
He explained that each program only establishes the fitness standards.
Each individual department would decide rewards and repercussions. In one example, officers had to take the test twice each year and there were progressive repercussions for an officer who failed to complete the test. Those repercussions ranged from minor all the way up to termination if they failed six times.
Brune said he would want to give a good incentive for officers to stay in shape, but it would be the department’s responsibility to decide rewards and repercussions.
Program development to establish the physical assessment would be $15,000 and would be shared by each participating department. The estimated cost per department is less than $1,500. If the department participates, it would be involved in developing the assessment which would include providing officers to be tested.
“Most police officers want to be in good shape, but we’re humans too. Sometimes we need incentives to get out there and do it,” Brune said, adding that the department is aging and some don’t have the incentive.
“No matter how old that police officer is, they should still be able to perform the duties expected of them,” he said. “Age should not have anything to do with it. Sex should not have anything to do with it. If you’re a police officer you should be able to do this.”
Alderman Karen Erwin said she thinks participating in the program is an “excellent idea.”
No action was taken, but Brune was given the go-ahead to further look into the program and determine if it would be a good fit for the Union Police Department.