The Bulletin Board

Some NH police chiefs say it’s time to get rid of officer physical fitness requirements

By: - February 10, 2023 2:19 pm

John Scippa (left), director of the New Hampshire Police Standards and Training Council, and Capt. Adam Hawkins, who oversees fitness testing for the council, answer lawmakers’ questions about a bill that would eliminate the test for law enforcement officers. (Screenshot)

Enough law enforcement officers are failing to pass the required fitness test for sit-ups, push-ups, and a 1.5-mile run that some police chiefs are backing a bill that would do away with the fitness requirement. 

That includes Hinsdale Police Chief Charles Rataj, who told the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee this week that the test is making it hard to hire and retain officers. 

“I would rather have a large, strong officer who just can’t do 20 sit-ups with me as opposed to no officer at all,” he said. “Or I would rather have a detective lieutenant who’s outstanding at investigating sex offenses and who is in her mid- to late 40s and just can’t run a mile and a half without hurting her hips.” 

The fitness test required by the New Hampshire Police Standards and Training Council gives officers limited time to complete sit-ups, push-ups, and the run. Those limits vary by gender and age. 

For example, males age 18 to 29 must do 37 sit-ups in a minute, 27 push-ups and run 1.5 miles in just under 13 minutes. Women in that age group have just over 15 minutes to complete the run and must do 31 sit-ups and 14 “full body” push-ups or 22 modified push-ups from their knees. The standards are higher for state troopers.

The time limits for the run become more generous as officers age, and they must do fewer sit-ups and push-ups. Officers must take the test to become certified and then every three years to remain certified. If they cannot pass the test due to injury, recent surgery, or fitness ability, they can get waivers.

No one testified against House Bill 113 at Thursday’s hearing, though 16 of the 31 people who submitted testimony online opposed it. Charles Mccullough of Concord urged the committee to increase the standards.

The bill is also dividing the state’s police chiefs. Glen Drolet, the chief in Northwood, said about half the state’s approximate 200 police chiefs responded. He told the committee that 62 percent supported eliminating the fitness test; 29 percent opposed the idea; and 9 percent were unsure.

The New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police did not take a position on the bill, nor did the New Hampshire Police Standards and Training Council. Director John Scippa said New Hampshire is the only state in the country that requires ongoing fitness testing.

“The police academy’s position is that we really want to encourage and build out a program that’s going to help officers stay well and be resilient across their entire career,” he told the committee. “Part of that resiliency is based on their level of fitness. It’s been demonstrated time and time again how important it is for those officers to have a level of fitness that will help them get through their challenging careers.”

But Scippa said the council also supports moving to a different type of test that would more accurately measure officers’ ability to do their job. 

The committee did not appear ready to make a decision without more study. Among members’ questions was whether dropping fitness requirements would lead to more job-related worker compensation claims. 

Chairman Terry Roy appointed several members to a subcommittee to gather more information and consult with Scippa on amendments or alternatives to the bill. If the committee recommends the bill go to the full House, it would need to pass there to make it to the Senate.

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Annmarie Timmins
Annmarie Timmins

Senior reporter Annmarie Timmins is a New Hampshire native who covered state government, courts, and social justice issues for the Concord Monitor for 25 years. During her time with the Monitor, she won a Nieman Fellowship to study journalism and mental health courts at Harvard for a year. She has taught journalism at the University of New Hampshire and writing at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications. Email: [email protected]