Feature: Reporter attempts Harrogate police fitness test

Dan Windham and Hannah Phillips doing the North Yorkshire Police fitness test (s)
Dan Windham and Hannah Phillips doing the North Yorkshire Police fitness test (s)

A new fitness test for police across the country starts on Monday, September 1. So, how will North Yorkshire police fare in the fitness stakes?

Reporter Dan Windham was put through his paces.

The new national police fitness test which will be introduced on September 1 has been tried out by volunteers in North Yorkshire Police over the last year.

Officers have recorded a 94.6 per cent pass rate during this voluntary phase, ahead of the compulsory fitness test.

The figures show 1,153 officers out of the 1,219 who have taken the test so far have passed.

The results were at odds with recent results issued by the College of Policing which showed a much lower pass rate, but according to Assistant Chief Constable Paul Kennedy in an interview with the Harrogate Advertiser, the results were taken from a small snapshot in time. They only recorded 74 of the results from officers who had taken the test voluntarily since last September e.

So what does the test entail and just how tough is it?

Officers are put through their paces at North Yorkshire Police HQ in Newby Whiske.

Hannah Phillips, a personal safety trainer talked me through the ‘bleep test’ before we warmed up by jogging to Level 3, then performing a series of stretches.

Hannah and I then ran the test, with the speed required increasing on each level attained, and managed to meet the expected endurance level of 5:3 in a test lasting around three and a half minutes.

Lynsey Ridout, a Harrogate Town Centre Beat Manager, welcomed the introduction of the test and said there were a number of situations where officers needed to be fit.

She said: “ It’s important for a police office to maintain a good standard of fitness from both a professional and personal level.

“As a police officer, you never know what you’re going to be called out on and everything could all change quickly.

“It’s happening more often, on every set of shifts, that a police officers is forced to chase someone somewhere so there’s always a chance of running in this job.

“I had a burglary incident a few weeks ago where I chased someone who tried to get away from the police by jumping off a third floor balcony and racing across the Stray.”

The new fitness tests apply to all officers who are operationally deployable, while those on restricted duties due to illness or accident, and pregnant officers, take it on returning to operational duties.

Both male and female officers must reach the same standard for their specific role but standards do vary depending on job role.

As a member of the Police Support Unit, Ms Ridout was required to complete the bleep test to an endurance level of 6:3.

She said: “I do quite a lot of sport myself. I’m a keen runner and cyclist and this year I have completed the Mighty Deerstalker, the Yorkshire Warrior and the Leeds Half Marathon.

“For me, fitness is really important for your health and for your work but it can be difficult to maintain regular periods of exercise as a police officer because you’re working shifts.

“It’s important in the officer’s down time they try and do some form of exercise but the majority of my colleagues participate in some form of exercise.”

According to the College of Policing’s Fitness Standards, officers who fail the fitness test are signposted by forces to resources to help them improve their fitness.

The officer will then take the test again in six weeks time but the College advises forces to use the unsatisfactory performance procedures if the officer is still unable to achieve the required standard.

Ms Ridout said some officers may fail because they feel the pressure of the test or because of time constraints restricting their exercising.

She said: “There are some police officers who, for medical reasons, can’t do physical exercise or they have child care when they are coming out of work and they don’t have the time.

“That’s the difficult thing working shifts as you can’t always squeeze exercise in.

“I work full time and have children so I only find time when I have childcare available.”

Watch the video of Dan Windham taking on the fitness test here