Portland Police Department Recruits Struggle With Physical Fitness Test

Like many city police departments, the Portland (Maine) Police Department is experiencing a dearth of qualified recruits into their ranks. While Portland (population 66,000) is only short eight officers, nationwide the total number of police officers is dropping by the tens of thousands annually.

Part of the shortfall may be attributed to the top end of the funnel in terms of general interest in the profession. Boys and girls dreaming of being police officers have been crowded out by new job fields and a population that is increasingly looking toward college as a must after high school graduation. Negative social and media portrayals of police officers haven’t helped in regard to the status of the profession.

Officer Kate Phelan, Portland, Maine Police Department
(photo credit: Lauryn Hottinger)

Police departments such as Portland are increasingly reaching out to local junior and four-year colleges for recruitment. Pitches to college students and graduates may include signing bonuses and highlighting the benefits packages associated with civic employment. This in addition to the general call to service in public safety and community service.

But there remains one issue which Portland Officer Kate Phelan notes is the most daunting to turning applicants into officers: the physical fitness assessment.

“The physical fitness standards are the hardest for people to come through, they are either not passing or not ready for it when they come to test.”

– Officer Kate Phelan, Portland PD

To put the fitness test into perspective, the average thresholds (varied by gender) are 25 push-ups and 35 sit-ups each within one minute, and a 1.5 mile run in under 13 minutes. Understand that these are applicants in their late teens or early twenties.

Building the core doesn’t have to be boring sit-ups with legs on bench.

Try medicine ball crunches with a partner. Smiling will fade after ten of these.

These standards are indicative of a generically athletic young man or woman. They would be relatively basic for any high school or collegiate athlete or height-weight proportionate regular gym visitor. But is this the generic young man or woman of yore.

Much like first-responder recruiters, the U.S. Army is experiencing a similar issue with the increasingly poor physical fitness baselines of their recruiting pool — high school graduates. The Army attracts recruits in relatively large percentage from the Southern region of the United State where childhood obesity rates are highest among a clearly nationwide epidemic.

For this reason, the Army is moving recruiting efforts heavily into Northern metropolises. The Army is making a concerted push in cities such as Chicago to work alongside the police department encouraging high school graduate to seek four years of military police training in the Army prior to joining CPD. In short, let us (the Army) train and condition your future officers. It’s an interesting joint recruiting strategy.

As for Portland, Maine, they’ve taken the somewhat controversial step of recruiting non-citizens into their police department. Hence, legal citizenship is no longer a barrier to entry, but sit-ups may be.

To learn more about Orchestra and how local police forces can utilize our software suite and services to promote and enhance recruiting, contact Brandon Meyers (brandon.meyers@orchestramacro.com or 346-223-2043).