Physical Abilities Testing (PAT)

Should it be done?

There are two levels of legal concern:

• The first concern revolves around potential negligence by the agency in the delivery of the fitness tests/standards/programs. The concern here is safety. The agency must document in writing the policies and procedures that meet the “standard of ordinary care” as demonstrated by following ACSM guidelines.

• The second concern revolves around the liability of an agency for not having tests, standards and programs. An agency that does not address the fitness requirements and needs of officers is susceptible to litigation for the following:

a. Negligent hiring: failure to hire applicants who are fit to do the job.

b. Negligent training: failure to train recruits and incumbents so that they are physically capable of doing the job.

c. Negligent supervision: failure to supervise incumbents to ensure that they can meet the physical demands of the job.

d. Negligent retention: failure to reassign officers who cannot meet the physical demands of the job.

So your saying we should have PAT, but what type?

“We generally do not recommend job task simulation testing because they are not as accurate and predictive of physical ability as fitness tests. A job task simulation test battery, sometimes called an obstacle course or agility test, accounts for only 20-25% of performance of all physical tasks. These tests do not discriminate nor predict well and do not measure fitness. A fitness test battery

is far more predictive of an officer’s ability to perform essential tasks (accounts for between 50-90% of physical performance) and is more defensible if challenged in court. If your department chooses to use job task simulation tests, then we recommend that it be used in combination with fitness testing. Agencies should use only job task simulation tests that have been validated in a research study. Some departments are using the job task simulation as a “back up” test to ensure that the recruit who could not pass the fitness assessment for academy exit can do the essential tasks of the job. Likewise, if the incumbent officer cannot pass the fitness assessment, then the job task simulation test can serve as a “back up.””

How do you determine a “standard”?

“If the goal of your agency is to be in compliance with the Civil Rights Act of 1991, absolute standards (single cutpoints for everyone) are recommended. Same job=Same standard makes sense to most people. However, the use of absolute fitness standards will likely demonstrate adverse impact against females. Thus, it is important that the standards be validated and that the test cutpoints predict who can and cannot do the job. Even if adverse impact is shown, if the standards have evidence for their validity, they should be upheld if challenged in court. If the goal of your agency is to promote diversity, then the use of age-gender norms as a fitness standard is probably the best approach. Although the use of such norms appears to violate the Civil Rights Act of 1991, these types of norms are much less likely to result in adverse impact against women. Consequently, there is less likelihood of litigation when agencies use age-gender norms. However, agencies need to be aware that the use of age-gender norms as a fitness standard is not as predictive of the ability to do the job as absolute standards.”

Read more from the Cooper Institute HERE


8 Responses to Physical Abilities Testing (PAT)

  1. Eric C. says:

    It should be done. But what happens when we have to take a large portion of or “officers” off the line because they cant meet “a” standard for fitness?

    I also think that the CPAT for a perm. position is odd. It says that you don’t need to be fit to be a FFI. As limited as it is, the CPAT should be applied to any one that will see an opps. position on a scene.

  2. Drew says:

    Have to have one for all. The FF Combat Challenge isn’t it. Cool to watch but limited in scope. A test is like a trigger point, there had to be some action related to it. An assessment is more like the decision point, if they are below standard then corrective action should be taken. Employees might buy in to that. Everybody has strengths and weaknesses. I’d rather have something that people buy into vs. something they have to do. Check out the Ranger Athlete Warrior program. Good stuff. I used it in the last several years.

    • Adam says:

      I totally agree; the combat challenge is not nearly inclusive enough, exercise or personnel wise, to be an effective evaluation. As much as I dislike the run, pull up, sit up type stuff the Cooper Institute has fought and won a few lawsuits showing how well their physical battery test selects for long term job performance, granted they do test mostly cops. Primarily I have beef with their vertical leap as an indicator of lower body strength; I think you would l find that it is more of a genetic screener than indication of physical ability. I would prefer to see a broad-jump for distance, 20 rep squat, or some kind of anaerobic sled drag, the issue you run into is the “ease of application” bit. My plan in the Unit is to perform a physical abilities battery at the rehire academy and the 4036 testing to establish an average for each rank. We will be unable to enforce any sort of standard but the average will provide a target for programming.

      • Drew says:

        Have you seen the new returnee standards for FF’s and LT’s. They threw in the 16′ ladder evolution and single person hoselay for FF’s, and 4036 skills for the LT’s. Trying to pin down unstable G. on how it is going to go. Two strikes and your out? The e-mail states that they are unable to respond until they pass the tests. We will have approx. 10-15% fail. Should be interesting. We are also going from a hike to a run. Trying for sub 12.

        • Adam says:

          I have not seen the final draft but I knew it was coming. I really hope that there is policy written to give the whole thing some teeth. Locally we are preparing a physical battery test for all returnees and LTs. Hopefully it will move on to the perm staff as well.

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