Out-of-shape and overweight police officers in Cambridgeshire now face a crime-fighting version of The X Factor – and the losers will get a pay cut if they fail fitness tests.
The force’s 1,300-plus officers have now become ‘candidates’ in a Simon Cowell-style test to find out if they are fit enough to chase down criminals and tackle them in the street.
But two officers have already failed to come up to scratch after 51 were put through the first gruelling ‘auditions’.
They have already taken the new fitness test – officially named the X Factor. The ‘fails’ have now been referred to occupational health to help them get in shape for the looming deadline.
From September this year, all officers will be put through the rigorous tests – and unlike those on the TV talent show, the judges will not be swayed by a tear-jerking back story.
If they fail, they face a pay cut of up to eight per cent and will be put on restricted duties.
Force chiefs have warned this could mean fewer officers on the frontline catching criminals.
A high-level meeting of constabulary bosses including Chief Constable Simon Parr, heard how the organisation was handling the shake-up after a major Government review of how police operate.
Minutes of the meeting said: “Arrangements to introduce an ‘X Factor’ element to pay will be introduced from September 2014. This will mean that those who are confirmed to require ‘adjusted duties’ could have their pay reduced, but further work is required on this issue.
“In addition, it is anticipated that a number of officers may be identified as being unable to perform full operational duties following completion of the fitness test, albeit their day-to-day job does not require any adjustments.
“This could extend the number of officers on restricted duties across the force. To date 51 officers and 27 Specials have undertaken the test. Two officers failed and were referred to occupational health.”
An officer who fails three consecutive tests will lose their ‘X Factor’ pay and will be put through unsatisfactory performance procedures. Police officers cannot be made redundant.
Compulsory fitness testing was brought in after recommendations by Chief Inspector of Constabulary Tom Winsor. He said all officers should be made to take a “bleep” test annually, where participants have to complete a 15-metre shuttle run in shorter and shorter periods, reaching level 5.4 – four shuttles at level 5.
Oz Merrygold, general secretary of Cambridgeshire Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, broadly welcomed the move.
He said: “Personally, I think it is a good thing. The public expect officers to be fit and be able to chase a robber.”
But he questioned how the Winsor Review came up with the eight per cent cut.
The officer said: “I think they must have plucked that out of the air. But there is a year’s grace on this and any disciplinary actions will only come after officers have been given every chance to get fit.
“Our only big concern is about officers who have been injured in the line of duty who may have their ‘X Factor’ pay taken away. But as long as it is fair and balanced we have no problem with officers having a standard of fitness to meet.”
Officers will be required to take the annual fitness test to ensure they are “fit and healthy enough to protect themselves”, and can be deployed to the frontline whenever required. Winsor also recommended that, from 2018, the tests should be made harder, using challenges based on the type of things an officer might face on duty.