Politics & Policy

DOJ Sues Cops Over Fitness Tests

Team Holder says Pennsylvania State Police physicals are too hard for women.

Pennsylvania’s State Police commissioner is asking the Justice Department to withdraw a lawsuit claiming the physical fitness tests the force uses to qualify applicants for state trooper positions illegally discriminate against women.

“We will not be bullied into changing and lowering our standards by the Department of Justice or anybody else,” Frank Noonan, commissioner of the Keystone State’s police force, told reporters Wednesday, according to Associated Press.

The DOJ’s lawsuit complained that while almost all male recruits pass the initial physical readiness test, about 30 percent of women fail. The standards for new troopers require them to be able to run 300 meters in one minute and 17 seconds, do 13 pushups, clear a 14-inch vertical leap, and run one and one-half miles in 17 minutes and 48 seconds.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday in a Harrisburg federal court demands the department hire women on an equal basis with men. It’s unclear why using the same standards for both men and women violates this demand.

Between 2003 and 2012, around 120 more women would have proceeded in the hiring process but were unable to pass the fitness tests. The Justice Department claimed 45 more women would have eventually been hired as a result.

Noonan is unwilling to establish different fitness levels for men and women because most new hires would be performing the same job. Lowering standards could endanger the citizens relying on police for protection, he said, though he added that recruiting more women is a priority. Only about five percent of the department’s members are female.

Noonan told AP most female troopers support the fitness tests, saying, “They do not want separate standards for this job, because invariably that would make them second-class troopers, troopers who can’t meet the standards.”

Another option would be to lower the standards for everyone. “To put a test in place that basically passes everybody — well, what’s the point of having a test?”  he said.

According to the Justice Department, the practice of administering these tests violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and is not a lawful business necessity.

— Celina Durgin is a Franklin Center intern at National Review Online.

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