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Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe: No job for unfit police officers

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe
Image caption Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said he recently passed the test with no preparation

Unfit and overweight police officers who repeatedly fail fitness tests have no place in the job, Britain's most senior police officer has warned.

The Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said it was an officer's duty to be fit.

Mandatory annual fitness tests came into force in England and Wales in 2014 following Tom Winsor's policing review.

The Police Federation said a number of officers had failed the tests but no-one had been dismissed yet.

'Waddling down the road'

Sir Bernard, who is 57, said he had recently passed the annual 15m (49ft) shuttle run "bleep" test with "no preparation".


Image caption Tom Winsor has said the bleep test could become more stringent

Analysis by Danny Shaw, BBC home affairs correspondent

If most people pass a test, does that make it easy? It's a question the police service will confront in September, when the first full results of the new annual fitness test are published.

The interim findings indicate a success rate across forces in England and Wales of about 97%. Even if an officer fails, they can take the test again -- the College of Policing says they should be allowed at least two retakes before disciplinary measures are considered.

Sir Tom Winsor, the Chief Inspector of Constabulary, believes the test should become more stringent - and his opinions count.

Sir Tom's report in 2012, which recommended the introduction of an annual test, suggested that in 2018 the test should be changed so that it's similar to that undertaken by police recruits in Northern Ireland.

They have to do a series of push-and-pull exercises to test strength as well as completing a three-lap circuit involving crawling, jumping and climbing.


"It's taken too long to get the annual test, but it will start to have an increasing impact," Sir Bernard told the Radio Times in a recent interview.

"For me, the standard is too low: I think it should be higher. It's relatively easy to pass."

Police who failed the test would be given time to lose weight and get fitter, but "If they don't, then we haven't got a job for them," he said.

"I think you've got a duty to your colleagues. If they shout for help, they want fit people to come. They don't want somebody waddling down the road who's never going to arrive, and when they get there they're out of breath."

'Duty of care'

The commissioner was speaking about expectations for his own force, but as the most senior police officer in England and Wales other forces would take notice, the Police Federation said.

The test became mandatory in September and applies to officers up to the rank of chief inspector, it said.


Bleep test

A multi-stage fitness test in which you must do shuttle runs in time with the bleeps until the bleeps get too quick for you

•The shuttle runs are done in time to bleep sounds on a pre-recorded audio device

•The time between the recorded bleeps decreases every minute as the level goes up

•The test usually consists of several levels: the higher the level, the quicker the speed


Interim results given to the College of Policing in 2014 showed the test had been failed 807 times.

John Tully, chairman of the Met Police Federation, said while he accepted there was a clearly defined standard of fitness officers had to maintain, because of budget cuts, frontline officers had no time to maintain their fitness during work time.

He said the force also had a duty of care to remember because some officers were unable to pass the fitness test as a result of illness or an injury they had received on duty.

"There is no differentiation between someone injured playing football in their own time, or injured on duty," Mr Tully said.

"Clearly the commissioner is laying a line down from what he has said, but it would be a sad day seeing people leave the organisation if that happens."

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