DENVER (CBS4) - A CBS4 investigation has found that about one third of the members of the Denver Police Department's elite Metro SWAT Unit have been routinely flunking their semi-annual physical fitness exams.
"I was more disappointed than surprised," said Denver Police Chief Robert White after learning about the failed physical fitness tests. "Did they all pass the standards that we set? No they didn't."
The roughly two dozen members of Denver's Metro SWAT Unit are trained in special weapons and tactics and are responsible for responding to barricade and hostage situations, mass demonstrations and other physically demanding scenarios. They are expected to be in peak physical condition and are paid extra to be part of the SWAT squad.
In 2011, they began taking twice-a-year physical fitness tests with six components. Fail one part, and the entire test is considered a fail. SWAT team members had to pass all six parts to pass the test.
Among the tests:
- Doing one pull-up with a 40 pound weight attached
- Running 1 1/2 miles in just under 14 minutes
- Doing 35 pushups in a minute
- Doing 37 situps in a minute
The test is based on a national law enforcement fitness model.
But SWAT team records obtained by CBS4 under the Colorado Open Records Act show that a significant number of officers have been unable to complete the physical challenges, some failing every single component of the test.
The city declined to provide names of the officers who failed citing the officer's privacy rights. The consequences for failure? Nothing. Officers who flunked the fitness tests returned to their jobs with no repercussions. They could then take the test again in six months, and flunk again without any consequences.
Chief White, who commanded a SWAT team earlier in his police career, says he is now changing that.
"So now the situation is the standards are mandated and there are consequences if you don't pass the test."
White says SWAT officers who cannot pass the test will now be transferred out of the unit.
"This is another statement we are making everyone has to be accountable."
White says he is not sure why the department was administering fitness tests with no ramifications for failing.
White says that at 60, he believes he could pass the SWAT physical fitness test.
"I think it's important to have a goal, but it's more important to have a goal and consequences."
Click here for some of the failed SWAT fitness tests.
- Written by Brian Maass for CBSDenver.com
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