Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Police no longer required to be able to swim?

Can you believe this headline? Neither could I but it's for real. I read in the papers about it. Here is an article by TimesOnline

I would be willing to bet that most of you would take it for granted that a member of the police force would be able to swim and would have the necessary life-saving skills to rescue a person from water, just to mention this scenario. The fact that swimming is not a basic requirement to enter a police force or police service is amazing enough, but the fact that they no longer train officers in life saving techniques or require them to learn to swim within a sensible time frame is plain infuriating.

Long time ago, as a little boy, I discovered that firemen (I grew up in a place and time when fire fighters were always men) did not ONLY put out fires, but performed other essential rescue tasks such as helping children who had climbed a tree but were "stuck" or using special cutting apparatus to free people from car wrecks. Well, it is understandable to think that fire fighters only fight fires, but I have always believed that police were there not only to make arrests and chase robbers, but to do many things to make society safe and peaceful.

I'm wondering, do police in your country have to be able to swim? Are you, or have you ever served as a police officer? If yes, were you required to be able to swim when you joined up, and if a trainee was unable to swim, were they required to learn? Beyond learning to swim, were you required to be able to perform certain minimums in regard to water?

I have no idea what the standards are for being able to save lives but I would suggest as a basic minimum, a police official should be required to be able to:
1. Swim upstream in a local river for up to 50 m. and to where the current is strongest, or out to sea for a similar distance
2. Be able to tread water while keeping another person a loft, for 10 minutes so that rescue services can have time to reach and rescue the person.
3. Be able to assess within a very short time (say 10 seconds), a situation, and
how to respond appropriately.

It has been suggested, and I have no idea how factual this assertion is, that the reason the standard of being able to swim has been dropped is that members of certain minority groups (in the UK) are by and large poor swimmers and would not meet the swimming ability targets. Now, while I entirely agree that the police force/service should reflect the diversity of the community it serves and not discriminate on the basis of race or religion, they should not also be required to remove entry requirements that are part and parcel of an officer being able to carry out his or her responsibility for the community.

QUESTION: Can people with physical impairments become policemen or policewomen? According to the Metropolitan Police website

The Disability Discrimination Act applies to all appointments in the Metropolitan Police Service and we welcome applications from individuals with disabilities. Adjustments will be made to selection processes and / or the working environment provided it is reasonable in all circumstances to do so.
So presumably a person who has some degree of physical impairment, but is intellectually equal to the task, could be recruited in a special capacity. For instance, I am hard of hearing in the one ear - I wear a hearing aid - would this preclude me from being an officer on the beat (I have no desire to actually join the police - this is merely hypothetical )

While I will concede that a few exceptions to this swimming requirement can be made, by and large, a person seeking employment with a police force should have certain competencies and should be physically fit and heathy. While I agree that they should NOT put height requirements as a person physical height has nothing to do with their competency as an individual, however, perhaps setting certain BMI (Body Mass Index

) parameters would be advisable, as someone overweight or underweight may not be able to cope with the rigours of the job. The force's insistence that these minimum standards be maintained is not and never should be regarded as dicriminatory. They are for the good of the individual themselves and the safety of the other officers or members of the public.

If you want to get a job, you work hard to achieve the academic and other requirements of that job. If you want to be a police officer but you cannot swim, you should go and find a person who teaches people to swim and ask them to teach you. The working world is not a kindergarten where you lower the standard so that "everyone can win" but it is a competitive market where you work to improve your standard so that you are more productive, more effective, and harder working so that you remain employed. Society should stop pandering to the lazy and ungrateful individual who does the minimum of work but wants the biggest salary. In nature, it is, according to even the casual observer survival of the fittest however it seems that today's society, with its political correctness and its selfishness has the maxim of survival of the weakest.


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