A physical agility test usually occurs before hiring and/or after police academy. Most police departments add a general fitness test to their candidate assessment. Though these tests require less physical exertion than the police academy test, they do measure body physical composition, aerobic capacity, endurance and muscular strength and flexibility. Breathing techniques and body fat content are sometimes measured as well.
The police agility test is also referred to as the physical ability test, physical performance test or fitness test. It is offered by all police departments and is supposed to measure the ability of a person to perform the rigors of police work. Although different police academies require different physical agility tests, the placing of higher priority on agility tests is not uncommon with some authorities. The physical performance tests require you to do sit-ups, push-ups, running specific distances in set times, and lifting weights that simulate the real life weight of a person or object.
Many police academies develop their physical ability tests in line with national models and industry standards, ensuring that they simulate the actual tasks, skills, knowledge and agility required for police work. The major tasks that police officers are required to know are included in the Physical Ability Test such as the ability to exit from a patrol vehicle and remove items from the glove compartment and trunk with coordination and dexterity. This test measures the motor skills and hand eye coordination that a person has when they attempt these routine police tasks. Another important skill that the police physical agility tests evaluate is the body endurance and cardiovascular condition. To check this, recruits are sent on a 220-yard run and given a specific time to cover the distance.
There is also the 110-foot obstacle race that takes the recruit through 3 hurdles, over a 40-inch wall, a serpentine section and finally a 27-inch low crawl that quickly assesses the recruits coordination and agility. To determine their strength, recruits are required to drag a life size human dummy weight of about 150 pounds through a distance of about 100 feet.
The distances that are incorporated in the physical abilities tests are determined from the evaluation of common rescue and pursuit police tasks, patrolled distances in correctional facilities and common heights of obstacles encountered by police officers in their line of duty. Many candidates are intimidated by the stringent physical requirements, for example, in California; the police department has a 6-foot wall climb that it uses as part of the agility test. Most departments, however, maintain that with the right preparation, candidates are assured of success.
Cut off points for a pass are determined from different factors including age and sex, while a few departments such as the police department in New jersey use the same standards of physical agility, because in their assessment, successful candidates usually face the same risks on the job regardless of age or sex.
There is a difference between the obstacle course test and the basic running, sit-up, push-up test. Some police departments schedule a five-stage physical agility test that includes a 220-440 yard run (distance depends on the academy), sit-ups, push-ups, an obstacle course, and sit-and-reach flexibility test.
The obstacle course is unique compared to the other four tests and requires that the candidates run through a series of obstacles while holding on to a flashlight, and while carrying a gun belt complete with a gun. The candidates have to climb over a 40-inch wall (that can be higher in some precincts), they must jump over a series of 3 hurdles of different heights ranging from 24 inches to 12 inches, zigzag through a row of 9 cones placed 5 feet apart and crawl under hurdles that are 27 inches high and 4 feet apart. Some academies require recruits to repeat the obstacle course in reverse starting with the crawl under the low hurdles and ending with the climb over the wall.
For the sit-ups portion, candidates are required to lie flat on their backs with knees bent and heels flat on the floor, with interlaced fingers placed behind the head. To pass the test, candidates are required to complete at least 32 sit-ups within one minute (the lowest level). For the sit-and-reach flexibility test, candidates remove their shoes and sit with legs extended. The feet, no wider than 8 inches apart, are placed against a box. The toes must point straight upward and the knees extended during the course of the test. The candidates are required to place one hand on top of the other and lean forward without lunging but instead reaching out as far as possible. With the hands remaining together, the stretch is held for one second. Each candidate is given three attempts, the best of the three recorded to the nearest .25 inches, and a determination is made of whether the candidate passed.
When doing the push-up test, hands are placed on floor slightly apart, wider that the shoulder width, and fingers are pointed forward. The police recruiter places their fist or a 3-inch sponge on the floor below the candidate’s chest and the candidate is required to do at least 22 push-ups per minute to qualify with a pass in this category. Many academies also require the candidates to complete a 1.5-mile run within 15 minutes and 57 seconds- for a pass.
To prepare for the physical agility test, candidates are usually advised to set up a training schedule that includes intensity training. Common schedules have an average training frequency of between 3-5 times in a week, comprising of Aerobic, resistance and flexibility training. For the test of running 440 yards, candidates can practice running around a track regularly, and should be comfortable to run one lap without stopping. Sit-up preparations can be done by practicing with bent leg sit-ups 3 times a week and push-ups may require bench press repetitions. These practice-training schedules also prepare candidates for the obstacle race, so that they have adequate stamina, strength and flexibility to pass the obstacle course. Once candidates start on a training program, it is vital that they stick to it. Having a rigorous workout enhances upper body strength, flexibility, cardiovascular strength and endurance, reaction time, and also eliminates unnecessary body fat. Candidates should also set apart training hours to enhance the strength of their legs. This can make the difference when it comes to the various practical physical agility tests such as scaling a wall and pulling a dummy.
Additionally, candidates should watch their diets. Eating plenty of proteins and carbohydrates in preparation for the workouts and the agility test while keeping off junk food is a good way to go. Before going out for the test, candidates should eat light foods, avoid caffeine because it leads to dehydration, and dress appropriately, with the right training shoes and sweat absorbent clothing.
Once candidates are successfully admitted into law enforcement duties, they also need to maintain their fitness and correct diets, because unlike a physical test, real life situations on the job leave little room for error.
Checkout this digram of the Standard and Associates Police Department Ability Test Course.