Can You Climb a Chain-Link Fence? The NYPD Wants You.

Dealing with a spate of retirements, the NYPD decided it was way too hard to scale a 6-foot wall, so it relaxed its fitness test for recruits.
If you think you can climb this chain-link fence, consider applying to be a cop for the NYPD.
If you think you can climb this chain-link fence, consider applying to be a cop for the NYPD. Screengrab via NYPD/YouTube

Desperate for recruits, the NYPD has significantly eased its overall fitness requirements: No longer will prospective cops need to scale a 6-foot wall. They only need to get over a chain-link fence. 

Hopeful officers will also have more time to complete the “Job Standard Test,” the NYPD’s physical endurance exam, according to the New York Post, which first reported the changes. Whereas recruits were expected to complete the six-part obstacle course in 3 minutes and 28 seconds before, they will now have an additional minute. 

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A video shared with the Post last year allegedly showed some prospective recruits struggling to overcome the wall obstacle, known as the “barrier surmount.”

The NYPD defended its decision to alter the physical test.

“Our physical fitness requirements in the Police Academy have been reviewed and approved by New York State Division of Criminal Justice Service,” the department said in a statement.

The NYPD is just one of the dozens of law enforcement agencies struggling to replace officers who’ve retired or resigned in recent years. So far this year, 1,472 officers have retired from the force, and 647 have resigned from their posts, the New York Post reported earlier this month. Meanwhile, just 561 new recruits graduated from the academy this year. 

In 2021, a total of 3,152 officers left the department.

The Police Benevolent Association, the most powerful police union in New York City, said the solution to the waning number of recruits shouldn’t be to relax the fitness requirements.

“It’s not watering down hiring standards,” the association wrote in a tweet. “Just pay a competitive market wage.”

Police departments around the country have been struggling to respond to the officer shortage for years. A national survey conducted by the Police Executive Research Forum in June 2021 found there was a 45 percent increase in officer retirements nationwide since 2020, while resignations increased by 18 percent. On average, police departments are filing 93 percent of their available positions, the study found.

The lack of new recruits has resulted in police departments that are  stretched thinner than ever. Their recruitment woes coincide with the falling public perception of police, which has struggled since 2020, according to a study by the Pew Research Center.

Several departments have tried to combat the shortage by offering cash incentives for recruits. In Washington, D.C., the Metropolitan Police Department offered recruits a $20,000 hiring bonus upon earning their gun and badge, a tactic that several other police departments, including Chicago’s, have considered or adopted. Other departments, such as in Portland and Tacoma, are offering experienced officers who move to their city upwards of a $25,000 bonus to jump ship. Meanwhile, police in Syracuse decided to double down on their efforts to introduce a career in law enforcement to residents early on with its paid teen-cadet programs.

Other departments have resorted to enticing new recruits in more creative ways. The San Diego Police Department has offered new recruits $50,000 toward the down payment of a home. In New Hampshire, the Manchester Police Department listed qualified immunity, which gives officers protections against being charged with certain crimes, among the benefits of joining its team in a social media post last year. After a public outcry, the department took down the post and apologized.

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