Hoping to attract more potential recruits, some Kansas law enforcement agencies are studying the possibility of easing fitness requirements for applicants, reports the Wichita Eagle.

In fact, changes have already happened: Applicants for Sedgwick County Jail detention deputy positions now have an extra 10 seconds to complete a series of drills to test their agility.

A Wichita State University criminal justice review panel recommended increasing the time limit from 70 to 80 seconds because data indicated the change would not significantly lower the caliber of applicants, Sedgwick County, KS, sheriff's Sgt. Dave Hein said. The higher time limit has been in place for two months.

"My personal observation is they were right," Hein said. "The demographics that we're getting to pass that is not significantly different than what we were getting at 70 seconds. If you came in out of shape – grossly out of shape – it didn't matter if it was 70 or 80, you weren't going to pass that thing."

Shortly after his arrival as Wichita police chief, Gordon Ramsay questioned "rigid physical fitness standards" that many law enforcement agencies no longer use. Those standards, Ramsay has said, have cost his department a number of promising applicants.

A recent Supreme Court ruling required law enforcement agencies to have a job task analysis indicating why certain agility tests are included in recruit training if they want liability protection. Hein said he conducted a study to see just what detention deputies and patrol deputies have to do as part of their jobs.

The results indicated job demands haven't changed much since 1994, the last time an assessment was done. While the tasks have largely not changed, Hein said the physical fitness and agility tests for recruits will. For example, jumping through windows and climbing high walls are no longer considered tactically sound, so they will likely no longer require doing so in agility tests.  

Capt. Brent Allred, who oversees the Wichita Police Department's training bureau, says instead of running, another way to measure endurance is a physical fitness course that features a balance beam, stairs, and machines that recruits push or pull. Those components are more in line with what law enforcement officers may be asked to do on any given day while on duty.

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