What’s on the test:
- Inclining treadmill walk
- Situps or plank
- Obstacle course
- Stair run
- Simulated pat-down
- Sled push
- Dummy drag
“Get this guy off of you,” Sgt. Greg Cochran repeated while positioned behind a punching bag. “He’s trying to hurt you.”
Hall County Sheriff’s Office deputies meet the attacker after running across a field and scaling a 4-foot wall, then working a full minute to subdue the threat.
The officer slaps the handcuffs on a stand-in perpetrator, and Cochran clicks his stopwatch.
Starting this week, new hires for the Sheriff’s Office and deputies will run the obstacle course and complete other assessments built to test their physical skills.
“If you have a healthier department, you’ve got a more capable department,” Cochran said.
The assessment is a new concept for the department. New hires must pass the test, and current deputies in enforcement and custodial positions will have a year to pass it.
Requirements include pushups, situps, walking 15 minutes on a treadmill with the incline increasing, running up stairs, a simulated pat-down, dummy drag and sled push. Deputies should be able to perform at the 50th percentile of the population for their age group.
“The taxpayers should expect that, the citizens should expect that, that they have capable and willing law enforcement to do their duties,” Cochran said.
The assessment, particularly the 150-pound dummy drag, mirrors some of the real-life experiences of Deputy Jeremy Cooksey, a dive team member approaching his two-year anniversary with the department.
“A lot of times with the dive truck, we can’t get down straight to the water,” he said.
The tanks and heavy gear he has to carry on steep hills as part of his job are all similar, Cooksey said, to the physical demand of the assessment.
“Just because somebody can go out and run around a track and do X amount of pushups, that doesn’t tell us everything we need to know,” Cochran said.
Cochran, who has been working in fitness since 1987, said he knows he will have his hands full with this program’s inaugural year. Current employees off the mark will be prescribed workout regimens and given tips to help them meet the goal.
“If they are just moderately off base, then I’ll probably check them again in 90 days,” Cochran said. “If they’re severely off base, if they really need some attention, I’m going to consult with those people every 30 days.”
Those not meeting the standard will be handled on a case-by-case basis.
Cooksey said deputies in better shape can save precious time in real-world emergencies.
“In the jail, if you get an ‘officer needs assistance’ call and you’re on the bottom floor, sometimes the elevator takes a long time to get up,” he said. “So you can go outside and scale the steps — a lot of times you get there faster than taking an elevator.”
A 25-year-old man needs to perform 33 pushups in a minute and 40 situps in a minute to meet the 50th percentile standard. In no later than the fourth year, Cochran said he hopes to increase it to the 70th percentile.
That same man in four years, now 29 years old, would have to do 41 pushups in a minute and 45 situps in a minute.
Through social media, newsletters and email blasts, Cochran spreads the word on nutrition and exercise to reach and build trust with his fellow deputies.
“Everybody always tells us to smile because smiling is contagious,” he said. “Well, fitness is the same way. The best thing in the world we have right now is peer pressure from people getting in shape.”