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Officer fitness: Adopt one high standard

December 05. 2012 12:08AM

Part-time Barnstead Police Officer Dave Scott is suing the state over what he says are discriminatory physical fitness standards for police officers. He has a point. Unfortunately, his lawsuit could make the standards fairer while endangering the public.

As the Concord Monitor reported, Scott, 54, ran 1.5 miles in 14 minutes and 44 seconds, a mere 11 seconds short of the required time for a man in his 50s. That failure was entirely his own fault, Scott confided to the Monitor.

"I'm ashamed to admit it. But I think it was like 10 chances. My fault. Shame on me. I didn't maintain the regimen. (But) every time I took that test, if I were using the female standards, I would have passed."

Indeed, women in their 50s can pass by completing the run in 17 minutes, 59 seconds. On every test (running, push-ups, sit-ups, bench press), women can pass with lower scores than men. And the standards drop as a would-be officer's age rises. An 18-29-year-old male has to do 33 push-ups (a paltry number), 40 sit-ups and bench press 106 percent of his body weight. A woman of the same age has to do 18 push-ups, 30 sit-ups and bench press 65 percent of her body weight. A man in his 40s has to do only 21 push-ups, 31 sit-ups and bench press 85 percent of his body weight.

These are standards designed to put diversity above public safety. That should never happen.

The whole point of having phyiscal fitness standards for police officers (and firefighters) is to ensure that they can meet the strenuous physical demands of the job. Lowering those standards based on sex and age is a disservice to the public - and to the officers.

If Scott's suit results in a single standard for all officers, what are the odds that the standard will be high? The current ones are hardly tough to begin with. Most likely, the state would come up with a single, lower standard. That would be worse. But public officials often do unwise things in the name of diversity.

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