Eyesight, Fitness and Medical
Police officers work long shifts, at all hours of the day and night, during which they will encounter situations which are both stressful and confrontational. It follows therefore that a certain standard of physical and mental health is necessary to be able to cope with the demands of the the job. Your health will be assessed as part of the application procedure, but before moving on ask yourself a couple of simple questions:
- Do I have any condition (physical or mental) which means I need to take time off work on a regular basis?
- At my current level of health, could I cope with performing all the job functions of a police officer?
- Do I have any injury, disease, or condition which is likely to be made worse by doing the job of a police officer?
If the answer to any of the above is "yes" then you should take advice from your doctor before applying. If you've had a serious condition in the past (for example long-term depression, back injury, or some sort of major surgery) then it may make sense to have your doctor provide you with a letter certifying your current state of (good) health, and include this in the application package. It might avoid an out-and-out rejection!
Your weight and height must be in proportion - you must also not be overly underweight or overweight. To assess this, your Body Mass Index (BMI) will be measured. Home Office guidelines suggest state an applicant with a BMI between 18 and 30 should be considered acceptable. If your BMI is above 30 then you would be advised to lose weight to reach a BMI of 29 or 30, likewise if your BMI was below 18 then you would be advised to gain weight.
The current (9/2005) Home Office eyesight standards for applicants to the police force are as follows:
Unaided vision (without spectacles or lenses)
6/36 or better in either eye (2nd line down on optician’s chart) is required. Binocular vision (vision with both eyes) worse than 6/6 (7th line on optician's chart) requires correction.
Aided vision (wearing lenses or spectacles)
6/12 or better in either eye (5th line down on optician’s chart) and 6/6 or better using both eyes (binocular vision) is required. Near vision N6 at 40cm with both eyes together (aided).
Severe colour vision deficiencies (monochromats) are not acceptable. Anomalous trichromats are acceptable. Severe anomolous trichromats or dichromats are aceptable but you will need to be aware of the deficiency and make appropriate adjustments. The use of colour correcting lenses is not acceptable.
Corrective eye treatment
Forces will reject applicants who have undergone Radial Keratotomy (RK), Arcuate Keratotomy or corneal grafts due to the side effects of these treatments.
Forces will accept applications from people who have undergone Photorefractive Keratectomy (PRK), LASIK or LASEK surgery provided that six weeks have elapsed since surgery, there are no residual side effects and the other eyesight standards are met.
Other eye conditions
Forces will reject applicants with a history of a detached retina and glaucoma.
The police fitness test is designed to ensure a basic level of fitness in recruits. It used to be much harder than it is today - the test was changed about two years ago and the level that is required now should be attainable by all but the most unfit person. So the basic message is - don't worry about the fitness test unless you have serious health or weight issues.
The three elements of the fitness test are:
- Endurance (also known as the bleep/beep/shuttle test) to level 5.4
During this element you have to run to and fro along a 15 metre track in time to a series of bleeps which progressively become faster. You have to run as long as possible before you can no longer keep up with the bleeps. You must reach at least level 5.4 in order to pass the fitness test. The total running time is about 3 minutes, 40 seconds.
- Dynamic Strength - Push 34kg, Pull 35kg
This part of the test is measured on a machine which (in my experience at least!) looks like a large rowing machine with a seat at each end. In the first part of the test, you are pushing against the machine, in the second part, you are pulling against it. You do 3 'warm ups' then 5 maximum force pushes/pulls. You must reach at least 34 kg push strength, and 35 kg pull strength.
This final part of the test measures the grip strength in your hand using a device called a dynamometer. You grip it in your preferred hand get two attempts to record the maximum grip you can. The pass mark is 32 kg.
Performance on each of these provides a good indicator of your capability of performing various police tasks. The test elements are run consecutively and minimum standards need to be achieved on each.
If you fail to reach the minimum standard in one component of the test, you fail the whole test. If you don’t pass the test at your first attempt you can re-take it. However, if you fail the test after three attempts your application will be halted and you will have to wait for at least six months before re-applying.
Improving Your Fitness
Here's a few suggestions to help you train and prepare for the job-related fitness test...
You can improve your grip strength by holding a squash ball in your hand and crushing it as hard as you can for six seconds before releasing it. Repeat the process until your hand is tired. Practise this often. You can use waste paper rolled into a ball instead of a squash ball. You can also use weight-training exercises to improve your grip strength and improve your strength in other muscle groups at the same time.
The best way to improve your upper body strength is to perform resistance exercises using body weight, free weights or resistance machines. You can use weights and resistance machines at gyms or you can practise with press-ups. To improve your strength with press-ups, your hands should be shoulder-width apart and your arms vertical, your head fixed with eyes looking at the floor. Keep a straight body position throughout the action, making sure you go all the way down to touch your chest bone on the floor and then fully extend your arms on recovery. Try to breathe in as you push yourself up and out as you lower yourself.
To improve your stamina, take part in sporting activities that last 30 minutes or more and make you out of breath, such as football, netball or squash. You can also make rapid improvements through activities that create a large aerobic demand, such as jogging, cycling, swimming and rowing. Try jogging for 20 minutes or more and, as you improve, try to increase the distance covered in that time. Alternatively, jog a set distance from home and back again and try to reduce the time taken to cover the distance.
General exercise tips
You should exercise three times a week for 20 minutes, but if you’re not used to exercise you should start with gentle sessions lasting no more than 15 minutes.
Before any exercise it’s important to warm the body up to prepare it for the exercise that will follow. This will decrease the risk of injury. The activities performed during warm-up should be relatively slow and rhythmical, such as light jogging or cycling.
Along with the physical exercise that you perform, adequate recovery time is important. Cooling down after exercise will help you to recover and prevent muscle soreness. Your cool down should consist of a light exercise which gradually decreases in intensity, combined with some gentle stretches, particularly for the muscles that have just been worked.
- Try to train as much as possible with friends, as this will make your exercise programme both more enjoyable and safer.
- Monitor your progress by recording times taken, distances covered and recovery times. This will give you feedback on improvements and an incentive to continue training.
- Set yourself targets that can be realistically achieved. This will help motivate you.
- Don’t overdo your training. Start gently and build up gradually over a period of weeks or months.
- Spread fitness sessions out rather than playing squash, weight training and swimming all in one day and then doing nothing else for the rest of the week.
If you think you might fail this test, then start your preparation as soon as possible! My advice would be to go to your gym or sports centre, explain what you need to do to pass, and get them to help you with a training programme. Always start off gently and build up slowly. If you have any medical condition, haven't exercised for a while, are over 40, have been ill or have any joint problems you should always contact your GP or physician before starting any physical programme.