Police board makes no changes to physical fitness test
By Rachel Lippmann, St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis – The board that oversees the St. Louis Police Department has rejected proposed changes to the yearly physical fitness test officers must pass to stay employed.
The tie vote on Wednesday ended a six month effort by board president Bettye Battle-Turner to ease the test's requirements. Officers receive heart and blood pressure screenings, and must complete an obstacle course in 4 minutes, 8 seconds.
If an officer does not pass the first time - and that is rare, as 98 percent do - he or she has 90 days to take it again and pass. An officer can be fired if he or she cannot get in shape enough to pass the test before vacation days and sick leave are exhausted.
The changes the Board rejected Wednesday would have made that final step less likely by adjusting the times to complete the obstacle course based on age. One recommendation would have made passage of the test a requirement for promotion and selection for special units. Officers returning from surgery or pregnancy could get a year-long exemption with a doctor's permission.
Battle-Turner, the board president, has said in the past that her husband, a former city officer, retired from the department because he was afraid a back injury would prevent him from completing the exam. Though the pass rate is high, she said many of the officers get through on adrenaline, and the changes would make the process less stressful.
"When you're thinking about my family, no job, you're thinking of those kind of things, it does put a harder pressure on you when it comes to taking the test, and this is the common thread that I've heard throughout the process of getting this report ready," she said. She did not indicate if she would try again to make changes.
Mayor Francis Slay joined board member Richard Gray in opposing the changes. He was concerned, he said, that they would make the department less fit.
"How would a less fit department be better for this department and better for the city of St. Louis," he said. "And, the other question I would have is, are the criminals going to be less fit?"