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Springs Officers Will No Longer Take Fitness Tests After Discrimination Lawsuit

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4) - "I think it's wrong."

Colorado Springs residents had a lot to say after hearing that Colorado Springs police officers will no longer have to take physical fitness tests this year.

"I think it's a mistake," Mary Jo Piccin told CBS4's Tom Mustin. "I think the police need to be able to chase down them criminals."

Last Friday the Colorado Springs Police Department agreed to the demands of 12 female officers who filed a civil suit claiming the fitness tests are discriminatory. All the officers were over the age of 40.

The suit will now move to a federal court. Police Chief Pete Carey says he's disappointed, but will abide by the judge's decision.

"I very firmly stand behind physical fitness tests for our officers. I think what I'm asking them to do is fair and my hope is a federal judge also agrees with this," Carey said.

The police test consists of two running exams. Officers also have to do 52 push-ups in 2 minutes, and 45 sit-ups, also in 2 minutes.

The female officers who filed suit had been moved to desk duty after failing the test.

Many residents agreed with the chief, saying the requirements of the job demand fitness.

"I remember years ago when there were no fitness standards, and they had some pretty hefty officers … male and female," said Piccin.

Carey says the policewomen will be now be back on patrol, pending the federal decision, which could take a year or longer.

"We'll suspend tests and hopefully in 2016 we'll get this in front of a federal court and we'll make a decision," he said.

As the fitness flap moves to the federal level, resident Lolly Wood says police should be fighting criminals and not each other -- and fitness should be mandatory.

"I think they should be mandated to be in fit condition to do the job," Wood said.

The attorney for the police women declined to speak on camera.

Statement From Chief Pete Carey

For the past several years, CSPD has been involved in an extensive project to evaluate whether to adopt fitness standards for its sworn officers, validate what minimum fitness standards were job related, and develop and implement a Physical Abilities Test (PAT) that had been carefully formulated. CSPD was guided in this process by a consultant with expertise specific to physical abilities testing of police officers. To ensure officer success, CSPD called upon many resources in our community, including local healthcare and sports facilities, to provide personal training sessions and design exercise plans.

As most of you are likely aware, the City is presently defending a federal lawsuit challenging the PAT.  I continue to believe that mandatory physical fitness testing is the right thing to do for our community and our officers, and is a fair and appropriate minimum qualification to expect of those selected to protect and defend.  Although I feel strongly about the PAT, I welcome review of our program to ensure it is a valid reflection of minimum qualifications. 

However, bearing in mind my duty to carefully steward the tax dollars and personnel entrusted to me by the community, I have decided to agree to suspend PAT testing until the outcome of the federal litigation. 

Please know that this decision was not reached easily, and I recognize that our officers have embraced the culture of physical fitness. Nonetheless, I believe this is a necessary step to ensure the City obtains a full and fair review of the PAT program. 

It is my hope that all officers will continue a commitment to this culture of fitness while the PAT is suspended.  I certainly appreciate, and based on feedback we have received, the Colorado Springs community appreciates, that commitment.

If you have questions regarding the impact of the PAT program suspension on your particular situation, please direct those questions to your chain of command or CSPD Human Resources.

If you are scheduled to attend In-Service Training, please report to the CSPD Training Academy at 0800 hours, rather than the Global Village facility.

Peter Carey, Chief of Police

LINK: Order For The Preliminary Injunction (PDF File)

Tom Mustin is CBS4's Weekend Anchor. He has been with CBS4 since 2002, and is always looking for great story ideas. Follow Tom on Twitter @TomCBS4.

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