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UWPD wants to reform police fitness standards, increase female recruits

UW-Madison Police Department is searching for ways to recruit more women to its force and eliminate barriers along the way.
Published: Apr. 20, 2022 at 10:32 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - UW-Madison Police Department is searching for ways to recruit more women to its force and eliminate barriers along the way.

UWPD says 25 percent of its sworn staff are female. While it is higher than the national average of 12.5 percent, Chief Kristen Roman said that is “not a good enough number.”

Roman’s hope is to reform police fitness standards, saying female recruits in Wisconsin fail the state-mandated police academy exam at a rate 7.5 times higher than male candidates.

To become a police officer in Wisconsin, recruits must complete exercises like 30 sit-ups and 23 push-ups in a minute, according to the testing handbook created by the Wis. Department of Justice (DOJ).

The handbook writes: “The standards represent the level of physical fitness which predicts safe and effective job performance of the essential physical tasks required of police.”

“I think that those have some limitations in terms of how accurately they reflect what the job entails for a police officer every day,” Roman said.

UWPD’s version of a better test includes tasks like dragging a dummy to replicate pulling someone to safety and jumping over a three-feet barricade mimicking the average height of a wall or fence.

“We were able to base that test off of things that we actually, functionally do while we’re working,” Captain Cherise Caradine, who has nearly two decades of policing experience, said.

For the police chief, striving for accuracy in an assessment goes hand-in-hand with opening doors for women.

“I think that when we have put our officers through these, we see that the outcomes are far more equitable, and it demonstrates that both men and women are equally able and capable of performing what’s truly physically required in this job,” she said.

While UWPD works to create an annual department-wide exam, it will not replace the one required by the state. The department hopes the DOJ takes notice of its efforts and revises its own standards.

DOJ Spokesperson Samantha Standley responded to NBC15′s requests for comment Thursday.

She said the department is evaluating fitness standards for the police academy, and decisions are made by the Law Enforcement Standards Board.

“DOJ is looking at ways to make fitness standards as equitable as possible,” Standley wrote.

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