July 14, 2017 06:56PM
By Christopher Peak New Haven Independent
NEW HAVEN — The police department is starting to sweat about the number of recruits for its next class, after it hemorrhaged hundreds of applicants in the very first step: the physical fitness test.
Roughly half of this year’s 1,223 applicants didn’t make it past the first round. Officer Yelena Borisova, who conducts background checks, said 55 failed the physical agility test and another 393 didn’t show up at all. Another 675 are still in the running.
Of those, 270 have obtained CHIP cards that allow them to bypass the test and apply to multiple police departments, she added.
Those results led to an outburst of disappointed expletives at Thursday’s weekly CompStat meeting, as the department brass knew that even more candidates will be shaved off in the tougher stages to follow.
“The goal for us is, if you have 1,200 people, you want to try and get as many through the earliest parts of the process. Because what knocks out a lot of people is the background investigations, psychological, polygraph, the written test and the orals,” Police Chief Anthony Campbell explained. “So, the larger pool you have up front, the bigger, more qualified pool you’ll have on the tail end. When you lose a lot of people up front to something as basic as agility, it creates an issue.”
Campbell said he believes that the pool is still large enough that he’s hoping to get two or three academy classes, which legally must be capped at 45 cadets each.
The need for more cops is becoming more urgent, the chief said, as the department is currently understaffed. Of the 495 budgeted spots, only 440 are currently filled. And a wave of retirements could cause further shortages on the force, with two dozen cops ready to retire now and another 44 eying it next year.
“That doesn’t take into account resignations for officers who find jobs in other towns that are paying more, and it doesn’t account for injuries [or] disabilities,” he added, “so you need to keep the recruitment process going and keep getting more classes.”
What dashes so many law enforcement dreams? Sit-ups, Borisova said.
That’s one of the test’s four components, which are uniformly set statewide. An applicant also needs to prove they can do enough push-ups, a sprint and a longer run or get nixed.
The exact times and totals to pass the tests vary by gender and age. The toughest cut-off, for males between 20 and 29 years old, requires 38 bent-leg sit-ups in a minute, 29 push-ups in a minute touching one’s chest to a four-inch block, a 300-meter dash in under 59 seconds and a 1.5-mile run in under 12 minutes and 38 seconds.
Campbell said the department offered agility clinics to prep candidates for the test, trying to beef up the applicants — a strategy that apparently didn’t reach enough candidates.
Campbell is also considering whether this year’s recruitment process yielded an under prepared class. Last time, over seven months, the department drummed up 1,487 candidates. This time, in just a couple weeks, it cobbled together 1,223 candidates — a “huge number,” Campbell said, given the quick turnaround.
Campbell isn’t sure how the department should switch up the process to get more applicants into police cruisers.
“Everything we could legally do to try and help them through the process, we’ve done,” the chief concluded. “But it really comes down to the individual: You’ve gotta pass the test. You know what it is. Do it.”