POLICE officers at a Yorkshire force have been seriously injured by pushing themselves too hard while carrying out the recently introduced annual fitness tests.
Forces around the country are asking staff to perform the tests involving 15-metre shuttle runs to measure their endurance after a recommendation by Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary, Tom Winsor, earlier this year.
But at South Yorkshire Police concerns have been raised about the suitability of the tests after two senior officers, both at inspector level, injured themselves while carrying them out.
The Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, says both were keen runners but one has been told he may not be able to run again after badly damaging his Achilles tendon.
South Yorkshire branch chairman Neil Bowles said: “They are two very fit officers. One was a health and safety issue about the wetness of the floor. Sweat gathered on the floor and he fell on the wet surface.
“The second one was possibly pushing himself too hard because he had gone way above the level required for that test. He was trying to achieve a level that not even the firearms officers have to achieve”.
The “bleep test” exercises, which involve officers having to run back and forth at increasing speeds, were introduced by most forces last month but were in place in South Yorkshire on a voluntary basis from March.
Recent minutes for a meeting of Barnsley District Command team say: “The fitness test was discussed and the fact that officers are being injured by pushing themselves beyond the required levels.”
The force said the injuries happened in tests carried out between March and July and both officers “had achieved the required standard and were attempting to achieve a higher score”.
Last month it emerged that the police chief who helped catch the Suffolk Strangler had become the first Chief Constable to fail to meet the new police fitness targets.
Jacqui Cheer, boss of the Cleveland force, was unable to meet the pass mark of 5:4, which requires an officer to complete 35 shuttles over a total distance of 525 metres, in approximately three minutes and thirty seconds.
Mrs Cheer is believed to be the highest-ranking officer to fail the bleep test after only reaching level 4:2 while trying to set an example to her staff during a “familiarisation” exercise.
Home Secretary Theresa May has agreed that in the first year of the scheme there should be no sanction applied to officers who fail the annual test or who are unable to take it because of a medical reason. But from 2014, those who do not pass three times will be subject to disciplinary procedures to improve their performance. There is no obstacle course or upper strength testing involved.
A spokeswoman for South Yorkshire Police said the fitness test was introduced early “to dispel myths and reassure staff as to what was exactly required”.
She said no officers have been injured since September and that chief constable David Crompton had passed the test twice.
In West Yorkshire, all officers including chief constable Mark Gilmore are being asked to take it.
Officers have been tested to the national standard since September 1 with a pass rate of 95 per cent, and senior officers are set to take it on October 23.
Mr Bowles said officers in South Yorkshire were in favour of a fitness test but that the Police Federation had asked for an alternative to the bleep test to be introduced. He said: “Our issue is that some officers are injured in the line of duty. A bleep test is pretty bad for people with an ankle injury because of the amount of turning.”
John Blanchard, of Humberside Police Federation, said the bleep test was not relevant to most officers’ jobs. He said: “I have never chased a burglar 15 metres one way and then back the other way. Being able to run fast doesn’t necessarily make a good cop.
“It is a cheaply administered test. I have got upwards of 30 officers who have various injuries or medical conditions. If most tried to undertake the test they would suffer more significant injuries.”