Physical Fitness and Agility Tests

The number one cause for dismissal of recruits from the various law enforcement academies is inability to maintain the physical standards. Academy training is rugged; it calls for strength, stamina, and agility from the beginning of training to the end. Most law enforcement academies have minimum entrance standards that are tested prior to acceptance. If candidates fail to meet this minimum standard they are not selected for attendance, and usually removed from further consideration. See Appendix C for a list of some of the minimum standards for the various academies.


At one time, it was difficult to get a law enforcement job after admitting to previously using drugs of any kind. Now, agencies will often tolerate someone who once experimented with light drugs but who not longer uses them. However, many agencies still maintain a zero-tolerance policy, and any experimentation is considered grounds for terminating the application process.

While academy standards vary throughout the country, there are several basic physical abilities that are universal. Running one and one-half miles in ten minutes is a good rule of thumb. Forty situps and thirty pushups in a minute is also a reasonable goal to shoot for. Candidates that can handle these basics will probably fare well when it comes to an academy entrance exam.

Additional Challenges

The entrance examination may have more to it than simply running and doing exercises. Many agencies require an obstacle course of sorts. Having the ability to drag the equivalent of a man's body (roughly 180 pounds of dead weight) over a distance of twenty yards is an example. This simulates a law enforcement officer's ability to remove an unconscious motorist from a burning car or move a fallen agent out of the line of fire during a firefight. Women who are slight of frame may find this among the most difficult of the tests, because they are often outweighed by the object to be moved.

Sometimes the obstacle course is a matter of running around traffic cones, climbing barriers, crawling through large tubes, and so on. Sometimes it includes running on a conventional track with low hurdles placed along the track. No matter what the challenge, applicants are obliged to undertake these obstacles and overcome them. Whether or not they must achieve a perfect score is up to the specific agency, but their effort and attitude will be noted in any case.

Swimming Test

More and more agencies are requiring a swimming test as part of their preliminary evaluation of candidates. No matter what branch of law enforcement is involved, there is always the possibility that an agent or officer may need to possess the ability to swim. The testing procedure is relatively simple: candidates need to be able to swim in water that exceeds their height without the aid of anything or anyone. The primary objective of this test is to determine if the candidate is capable of taking care of themselves in the water, rather than to determine their ability to perform life-saving maneuvers. Life-saving ability might be a plus with some agencies, but it's far from the focus of a pre-employment swim test.

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