Recruits looking to become police officers in Victoria are getting a break when it comes to their physical fitness test, thanks to changes in policies that would allow more women to become officers.
For years, recruits were required to pass a fitness test to become a police officer. If they failed on their first attempt, they could not become an officer. But when the Victoria police force set a quota goal requiring 50% of recruits to be female, they quickly learned that such a quota goal was not achievable under current policies. “Only 30% of current police recruits are women,” reported Australian news outlet The Age.
So, now the Victoria police department will allow recruits who “fall slightly short” of passing the fitness exam to still be hired “so long as they meet other key criteria,” The Age reported. The police department is also altering its “recruitment criteria to include an emphasis on skills including empathy, ethical decision-making, communication and interpersonal skills.”
A spokeswoman for the department told the outlet that the requirements for the fitness test weren’t being changed, but that they were “looking at ways to strengthen our support for those who fall short.”
This was being done because the department didn’t want applicants “to be discouraged if they don’t pass the physical aspect of the recruitment on the first try,” she said.
“Instead, we want to ensure they are provided with increased opportunities to develop their strengths in key areas so they have the encouragement and support behind them to hopefully succeed on the next attempt,” she said.
A chart included in The Age article showed that since 2016, more women than men have passed the application and panel interview portions of the police hiring process, while more men than women have passed the police exam and fitness test. In other words, the department is trying to get more female recruits even though they don’t seem to have what it takes to become a police officer.
Achieving gender equality in the police force is necessary, women’s advocates say, because such a large portion of police reports involve family violence, suggesting men are not as capable as women in handling such calls.
Kristen Hilton, commissioner of Australia’s Equal Opportunity and Human Rights, told The Age that 40-60% of police calls on any given day involve reports of family violence.
“Addressing gender inequality in its workplaces is not just vital for improving the experience of individual employees, but also for improving the organisation’s ability to serve the Victorian community,” she said. “While there is a long way to go there has been a tremendous investment in improvements. There is also a greater awareness of what sexual harassment and discrimination looks like.”
What appears to be a weakening of standards in favor of women is not unique to Australia. The U.S. Marine Corps has struggled for years with lower physical standards for female recruits. The Marine Times reported in 2017 that “gender neutral physical requirements” weren’t really gender neutral, and that women were still being given different standards for fitness requirements. The difference not only hurt morale but also set marines up for danger as not everyone would be able to handle the rigors of the job.