Czech police to fight officer shortfall by relaxing strict physical tests

The new head of the Czech police force has unveiled measures to tackle the severe shortage of officers, changing the admission requirements to place less emphasis on the applicant's physical fitness. The police hope this will win back some of the thousands of hopeful applicants who are turned away each year because they fail the physical.

Noticing that policemen seem to be getting younger is a classic sign that you're getting older...but here in the Czech Republic, you might soon begin to notice that policemen and women are getting...well...a bit chubbier perhaps? Not quite so athletic looking?

According to Police President Oldrich Martinu, the Czech police force is short of some 3,300 officers. Finding applicants isn't the problem, but each year thousands of potential coppers are turned away because they fail the strict physical endurance test. To plug the gap, Mr Martinu has decided to lower the bar a little bit, to allow more people in. He has the full support of his boss, Interior Minister Ivan Langer:

Police President Oldrich Martinu
"Of course the police can't take on people who are not up to the job. However there are a number of departments where officers obviously don't need to be in great physical shape. An expert on computer crime, for example, doesn't need to be an athlete."

The changes - which will come into effect this summer - will relax the strict physical requirements. Applicants will undergo just four endurance tests - 10 metre sprints, press-ups, balance and reflexes and 1km run. They will have to score a minimum of four points for each, but they must reach a total of 36 points. So in other words, if you're no good at press-ups, you can make up for it in the long-distance run. Applicants will also get a second chance if they fail first time round.

Mr Martinu says he hopes the changes will win back at least some of those who wanted to join the police but were turned away. But it's not just the physical. There are also plans to relax the strict health test. At present, applicants who wear glasses or those with allergies are automatically rejected. This may be modified to take into account the severity of such afflictions.

However one area which won't change is the crucial psychological test. That, for now at least, stays the same.