Use of the Bootstrap Method to Develop a Physical Fitness Test for Public Safety Officers Who Serve as Both Police Officers and Firefighters
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Physical fitness testing is a common tool for motivating employees with strenuous occupations to reach and maintain a minimum level of fitness. Nevertheless, the use of such tests can be hampered by several factors, including required compliance with US antidiscrimination laws. The Highland Park (Texas) Department of Public Safety implemented testing in 1991, but no single test adequately evaluated its sworn employees, who are cross-trained and serve as police officers and firefighters. In 2010, the department's fitness experts worked with exercise physiologists from Baylor Heart and Vascular Hospital to develop and evaluate a single test that would be equitable regardless of race/ethnicity, disability, sex, or age >50 years. The new test comprised a series of exercises to assess overall fitness, followed by two sequences of job-specific tasks related to firefighting and police work, respectively. The study group of 50 public safety officers took the test; raw data (e.g., the number of repetitions performed or the time required to complete a task) were collected during three quarterly testing sessions. The statistical bootstrap method was then used to determine the levels of performance that would correlate with 0, 1, 2, or 3 points for each task. A sensitivity analysis was done to determine the overall minimum passing score of 17 points. The new physical fitness test and scoring system have been incorporated into the department's policies and procedures as part of the town's overall employee fitness program.