Jan 9, 2024
Pennsylvania lawmakers push for lowering police fitness standard


Pennsylvania House lawmakers passed legislation last week that would lower the minimum fitness standard for a potential recruit to be accepted into the police academy.

The push for lowering the standard is to boost the shortfall of police officers in the Keystone State. Governor Josh Shapiro promised on the campaign trails to help recruit 2,000 more police officers. He’s also proposed a three-year tax incentive of up to $2,500 for new officers.

A recent story from the Penn Capital-Star detailed the state lawmakers’ push to lower police academy fitness requirements.

Below is an excerpt from the Penn Capital-Star story.

“One of the greatest dangers to citizens, as well as law enforcement officers, is not enough officers,” Williams said during debate before the bill passed Nov. 14 with a 115-88 vote. The bill now goes to the state Senate for consideration.

Civil rights groups have argued that the solution lies not with the quantity of officers, but the quality, calling for reforms to how officers are trained for dealing with people in mental health crisis, for instance.

House Bill 863 would reduce the minimum fitness level for police academy recruits from the 30th percentile to the 15th percentile of performance on the standard physical fitness assessment, which includes a 1½ mile run, a 300-meter sprint, push-ups, and pull-ups.

In order to graduate from the police academy, a cadet would have to improve their physical fitness to reach the 30th percentile of performance. It would also alter the reading comprehension standard to allow local police departments to submit their own reading tests to the state for consideration. 

Rep. Barry Jozwiak (R-Berks) was among those who voted in opposition to the bill, all of whom were Republicans. As the House’s representative to the Municipal Police Officers Training and Education Commission (MPOTEC), Jozwiak said changing the fitness and reading standards is a bad idea. MPOTEC issues the state’s police academy and firearms training curricula.

“Society expects police officers to be the best of the best, at least better than the average citizen,” Jozwiak said. “To accomplish that, we set high standards in our police academies, expecting to have the very best cadets graduating and to give applicants the best chance to succeed.”

Jozwiak noted that the fitness standards were already lowered from the 50th percentile to the 30th percentile several years ago. 

And when a police department makes the decision to sponsor a recruit in training, he said, it has already invested significant resources in vetting candidates by way of background checks.

MPOTEC’s police academy curriculum requires that cadets maintain the 30th percentile through the five months of the academy, with the first assessment after one month, Jozwiak said. He said fitness training instructors say it would be impossible for a person to improve from the 15th to 30th percentile in a month.

» ALSO SEE: Longwood Univ. partners with H2F to help exercise science students

“Entrance requirements are meant to keep people from wasting your time and money trying to do something that they are not prepared to do or would not be eligible to do,” Jozwiak said.

The Shapiro Administration and Pennsylvania State Police, which oversees MPOTEC, support finding solutions to ease the shortage of municipal police officers, the state police said in a statement issued by its press office. 

To read the full story from the Penn Capital-Star, click here.