St. Petersburg Times Online: Pasco
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Deputies pass fitness test


© St. Petersburg Times, published July 29, 2000

NEW PORT RICHEY -- When nearly 10 percent of Pasco deputies failed a mandatory physical fitness test, Sheriff Lee Cannon decided to put the program on hold while a group of employees studied the requirements.

The solution, the group found, was to make the test easier.

Now, no one is failing. Of the 187 people who have taken the test since it was reinstated in April, all have passed.

The test, which is required for all sworn personnel, measures how fast a person can run, climb, crawl and drag a 150-pound dummy.

Cannon, at the suggestion of the 11-member group, decided to make changes to the so-called "dummy drag" portion of the test and in the running requirement. This comes as a "starting point" for officers who were not used to meeting physical fitness requirements, said sheriff's spokesman Kevin Doll.

The group will meet again next year to determine whether to make the test more rigorous.

Doll said 185 law enforcement and corrections deputies have taken the test since new standards were adopted at the beginning of April.

The dummy-drag and the running portion of the test have been cut in half, said Doll. Previously, the employee had to drag the dummy 100 feet and run 440 yards.

The test will improve employees' health and morale while simultaneously cutting liability risks for the department, officials say.

Right now, if a person is unable to pass the test in 6 minutes, 4 seconds, they have 120 days to shape up, and retake the test. If they still didn't pass, they would be placed on temporary duty, and within 30 days, be transferred to civilian duty -- if a job is available.

This has caused some to question the implementation of the test, especially since many corrections deputies who are women -- and who traditionally work desk jobs -- did not complete the course in the required time.

But so far, no one has even come close to failing the test, said Doll. The average finishing time for law enforcement deputies is 3 minutes, 23 seconds; while the average time for corrections deputies is 3 minutes, 10 seconds, according to information provided by the Sheriff's Office.

Donald Toms, the coordinator of the physical ability test for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in Tallahassee, told the Times in March that such a test should be implemented gradually, and have no immediate consequences if a deputy fails. On Friday, Toms would not comment on Pasco's retooled test.

In 1999, a total of 514 people took the test, just for practice. Of those 514 people, 467 passed and 47 failed, according the the Sheriff's Office.

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