Swindon Advertiser reporter tries out for Wiltshire Police special constable fitness test

This Is Wiltshire: Fit enough for the Force? Fit enough for the Force?

SCOTT D’ARCY finds out when he takes the police fitness test “YOU could be a Special.”

At first I thought I’d misheard Wiltshire Police physical training instructor Stuart Dinwoodie, and he was paying me a compliment.

In fact, with the addition of that all-important vowel, it was confirmation that I had passed the basic police fitness test and I could, should I choose to, go through the process to become a Special Constable.

Well, I’m fit enough at least but I’m not so sure I’m cut out for the rough and tumble, the chasing after criminals or the associated paperwork. But still it felt good to know I had the option, just like the others doing the test in a chilly sports hall at Devizes Police Headquarters, who had been working towards a career in the police for sometimes as long as 12 months.

You could see how much it meant to the participants who managed, or failed, to beat the bleep test up to 5.4, jogging for three-and-a-half-minutes, and then pass a strength test.

This involved using a specialist resistance machine to push a minimum of 34kg and pull 35kg – I managed in the mid-60s in both.

It is this test, unique to Wiltshire Police’s early recruitment phase, that often sorts the men from the boys, or to be more accurate, the women from the men.

As Stuart explains, many of the women who come to test to be a Special with a view to becoming a regular have historically struggled with the second element and so the bar has been suitably lowered.

“Recruits for the regulars have to pass four fitness tests in the initial training and Specials only one – that’s the in-the-door test,” the ex-Army PTI said.

“There is a 16-week training period and the four separate tests of the same standard. The levels are set by the Home Office and there has been quite a bit of scientific research. A lot of it came out of the Winsor Report.

“You are always going to get a percentage, one of two, who fail the shuttle run. But in my time here we have never had a male fail the push and pull.

“The tests are set at a totally fair level and if someone is not meeting that standard they have not really bothered.

“A lot of the older people and the ex-military are prepared for it – it’s the youngsters who think it is going to be quite easy. You have to prepare.”

But fitness is no longer just the concern of bright-eyed new recruits.

Since September, compulsory annual fitness tests for regulars – at the same minimum standard unless they are a specialist officer – have been introduced as a result of the wide-ranging Winsor Review into policing.

But Stuart’s right-hand man Dan Poole, a former civilian personal trainer, explained that while it was important for officers to be fit, there was a concern over a three-strike rule that could put experienced officers at risk.

“The reason they have set 5.4 in the bleep test is that scientific research has shown that is a basic fitness level you need to be able to take in the personal safety training,” the officer of 15 years’ experience said.

“PST is basic training for all officers and running after criminals is what people expect.

“When it is all kicking off on a Friday or Saturday night you would want a fit officer standing the line.

“There is an introductory period and officers have three chances to get up to that level.

“If they can’t it is still up in the air what might happen next. But we want to see them get through so we will support them through it, just like we do with the recruits.”

Specialist officers have to maintain peak physical fitness and roles where the highest standard is expected include dog handlers and firearms officers, who must achieve 9.4 and 10.5 on the bleep test respectively.

But for the recruits that’s at the end of a long road to becoming an officer of the law.

Jas Singh, of Gorse Hill, is keen to join and at just 17 has made the cut to be a Special.

The New College public services student said: “It’s just something I wanted to do to make my community proud and represent them.

“There are not a lot of Sikhs in the police force and I applied as soon as I was old enough.

“I think both tests were fine, I got a bit apprehensive about it. But I managed 80kg on the push and pull machine so it was ok. I wouldn’t say it was easy though and I keep fit generally anyway.

“I want to be a Special and go to university, then we’ll see.”

Personally, I’m content to stick to my day job, although should the idea of mucking in to help maintain law and order ever appeal at least I now know where the bar is.

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