Law Enforcement Work Performance Test

In 1994 the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) began plans for conducting a comprehensive job task analysis (JTA) for the function of entry level law enforcement officers. In 1995 a job task analysis was conducted. This particular JTA documented specific physical tasks that were identified by law enforcement officers as part of their jobs. A Physical Issues Committee of subject matter experts was established to review and develop minimum training standards for the physical tasks involved in law enforcement work. Based on a request from regional training academies to develop a simplified method for testing the physical tasks, the committee developed a 154 yard work performance test/agility course, in 1998, that would measure an officer’s ability to perform the selected tasks.

To validate the work performance test and establish a course completion standard, ten of Virginia’s 22 law enforcement academies volunteered to participate in the data collection process. Recruits completed the work performance test during the first two weeks of each academy session (pretest phase) and then again at the end of the academy session (posttest phase). Depending on the academy, recruit training sessions lasted between 18 and 26 weeks. Additionally, all recruits completed the LawFit® fitness battery mentioned previously. Sixteen Fitness Leadership Workshops were conducted around the State to train personnel from local departments who were interested in testing incumbent officers. Incumbent officers completed the work performance test and the fitness battery during their normal in-service training periods. Between January 1, 1999 and November 30, 2001, there were 3006 participants tested (2,515 males and 491 females). Of these, 1,557 were academy recruits and 1,449 were incumbent officers.

From the analysis of the collected data the Physical Issues Committee established a minimum work performance test completion time of 1:22 as an exit standard for recruits completing academy training. The selection of the 1:22 standard was based on the following:

  1. Exercise science literature indicates that both strength and aerobic capacity are approximately 30% higher in males than females. Not surprisingly, the Virginia law enforcement data indicated that male completion times (mean = 1:02, median = 1:02) were 30% faster than female completion times (mean = 1:23, median = 1:18).
  2. The 1:22 time represents the 30th percentile for all females. (This means that 70% of all female recruits and incumbents were able to successfully complete the work performance test in the allotted time).
  3. This same 1:22 time represents the third percentile for males. (This means that 97% of all male recruits and incumbents were able to successfully complete the work performance test in the allotted time).
  4. With the selection of a 1:22 course completion time, the physiological differential between men and women was, in effect, neutralized; thus eliminating the potential for disparate impact.
  5. In an examination of recruit pretest work performance scores it was found that completion times for both males and females were consistently six to eight seconds slower than their post test scores. Based on this finding, it is suggested that departments could utilize a 1:30 course completion time as a means for screening potential new hires.

Utilizing percentile data from the LawFit® testing battery Dr. Bever was able to develop fitness profiles for officers based on age and gender. Five categories describing levels of officer fitness have been developed for bench press, push-ups, sit-ups, sit & reach, pull-ups, 1.5 mile run, and the work performance test.