Validation of Tests for Deputy
Sheriffs and Police Officers
Police Officers and Deputy Sheriffs
perform one of the most physically
demanding jobs in the United States. Not only are these occupations
physically demanding, they are dangerous: Each year scores of law
enforcement officers lose their lives each year in the line of duty.
Both of these jobs have higher than average incidence of cancer, back
injuries, disability retirements, and workers' compensation costs than
do workers in many other jobs. This is due, in part, to the physical
demands and environmental hazards associated with the job.
Demands on local police and fire protection can only be expected to
grow in the aftermath of the attacks on New York and Washington, D.C.
and the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. Local public
safety resources, already stretched thin, have been asked to assume
more and more responsibility for the maintenance of public safety from
a growing array of potential threats.
An important function of local government is to develop minimum
requirements for Deputy Sheriff and Police Officer certification
including the assurance that individuals placed in these jobs are
physically capable of performing the work. This activity must be
performed in accordance with the applicable state and federal fair
The Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedure state that any
test (for either new hires or employees) must be developed in
accordance with "professionally accepted methods." Unless the
employment tests are developed in a manner consistent with the
Guidelines they cannot be defended. Agencies seeking to implement
physical ability testing programs must comply with the Guidelines, if
they are to have a reasonable chance of prevailing in a legal challenge.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (as amended), the Americans with
Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Civil Rights Act of 1991 require that
job applicants be tested in relation to the physical demands of the
relevant job. In order to comply with these laws, the job must be
scrutinized to separate essential functions from those which are not
essential. If the applicant is failed and files a complaint, the
employer must be prepared to demonstrate that the applicant cannot
perform the physical demands of the job or would do so only at the
detriment of the applicant or the employer.
It is our experience that a valid physical screening program must be
based on a solid foundation of job analysis. A proper job analysis
provides the basis for the development of a realistic physical ability
test to help identify applicants who have the greatest probability of
job success and the least probability of injury or illness.
Simulation and work sample tests
are deceptively simple. Seemingly
straightforward and easy to construct, these tests have been subjected
to countless legal challenges on a wide variety of grounds. Often these
tests have been found deficient due to the lack of an adequate job
analysis, lack of relationship between the job and test performance,
and the arbitrary nature of the cutoff score, etc. Pass points have
been set using unscientific and arbitrary formulas such as setting the
pass point at the level of the lowest performing currently employed
incumbent or even on the basis of how persons appear in videotape
simulations. Often the job analysis is not comprehensive enough to
support the test in the event of a legal challenge.
This is not to say that work samples cannot be properly developed. If
constructed with care, such tests are very valuable in screening new
hires or to determine if incumbent officers remain able to perform the
functions of their job.
The MED-TOX approach to test validation involves the construction of
both a work sample test and a physical ability test to allow for the
criterion-related validation of both test types in a single study. The
approach described below demonstrates how a work sample test can flow
from a comprehensive job analysis and how physical ability tests can be
developed based on those abilities used to perform the work sample
tasks. This is the essence of criterion-related validity.
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MED-TOX approach involves assessing the content the job.
According to Section 14C (2) of the Uniform
There should be a job
analysis which includes
an analysis of the important work behavior(s) required for successful
performance and their relative importance. Any job analysis should
focus on the work behavior(s) and the tasks associated with them... The
work behavior(s) selected for measurement should be critical work
behavior(s) and/or important work behavior(s) constituting most of
the job. [emphasis added].
Since the Uniform
Guidelines require that any content-related test measure the
content of most of the job, our approach begins with a determination of
that content. Several Content Areas will be determined for both the
fire and the police classifications. Within each Content Area, we
expect to find a large number of tasks. An example of a Content Area
and a task is shown below:
Tasks will be
categorized by Content Area in this manner:
Content Area: Subdue and
Task: Wrestle with a resisting
suspect in order to
place handcuffs on him.
There are a number of
Content Areas that are unique to law enforcement work (Patrol, Traffic,
Investigative, Emergency Response, Subdue and Restrain, etc.) which are
derived during the job analysis. Using these content areas is important
because it assists in documenting that the content of the job is
assessed by the test that is subsequently developed. Without this
documentation, it will be difficult to know if the physical ability
tests overemphasize some aspects of the job and under-emphasizes others.
In addition to Content Areas, Ability Dimensions will be
utilized. Ability Dimensions have been identified from the research
literature. Among the most important Ability Dimensions for physical
ability test development are:
Cardio respiratory Endurance
Tasks will also be
categorized by Ability Dimension in this manner:
Ability Dimension: Muscular
Endurance Task: Wrestle with a
resisting suspect in order to
place handcuffs on him.
The use of Ability
Dimensions ensures that all of the relevant physical attributes are
assessed by the test. Taking care to perform these activities bolsters
the legal defensibility of the test. This approach can also lesson
adverse impact. For example, tests which emphasize arm strength tend to
have an adverse impact against untrained females. Tests that emphasize
flexibility adversely impact untrained males. Using Ability Dimensions
will also help ensure that a range of abilities is assessed by the test.
The MED-TOX approach
relies almost exclusively on the input of currently employed
incumbents. We have no commercially prepackaged test to sell. We have a
carefully designed process to manage. The process is to determine
to what extent performance on the physical ability test (example: grip
strength) is related to performance on the work sample measures.
Correlation, regression, and analysis of variance provides the
necessary information to determine which ability tests should remain in
the final test battery and which should be excluded.
Ability tests have
been shown to be both valid and reliable measures of human performance.
The tests are inexpensive and national normative data exist to allow
comparisons by gender and age. Ability tests are also useful in
providing testing information to job applicants or incumbents allowing
them to evaluate their own fitness. Such tests also permit individuals
to practice. If an individual knows he or she will be required to do
"x" number of Sit-ups, doing sit-ups is the best way to practice for
such a test. A partial listing of common ability tests is shown below:
PHYSICAL ABILITY DIMENSIONS AND THEIR MEASURES
Grip Strength Test, 1 RM Bench Press,
Jackson Strength Evaluation System, Arm Hang
Jump, Standing Long Jump, 50 Yard
Dash, Wingate Test of Anaerobic Power
in 1 min, Arm Ergometer, Pull-ups
in 1 min, Crunches
Twist & Touch
Ergometer, Step Test, One Mile Walk,
1.5 Mile Walk-Run
Based on a physiological analysis of each work sample event, a set of
physical ability tests are hypothesized to correlate significantly with
each work sample.
The work sample tests
are typically taken by a sample of incumbent volunteers. Gender and
age comprise two important variables as well as current
assignment. Since range restriction can be a problem that lowers the
validity of a test when very similar persons comprise the sample
population, MED-TOX has devised several techniques to overcome this
Incumbent testing is
critical to test validation. Below are photographs of law
enforcement officers participating in test validation. Jamar grip
strength is a common measure of muscular strength.
Other common tests of
physical ability included the vertical jump:
and push-ups are common tests of muscular endurance.
the Jackson Strength Evaluation System for jobs in which lifting or
carrying are essential functions. The Jackson Grip Test is shown
The Jackson Arm Lift
and Shoulder Lift require muscular strength.
The Leg Lift and Torso
Pull comprise the 4th and 5th Jackson measures.
The Bend, Twist and
Touch test has been demonstrated to correlate with law enforcement work
The 100 yard dash is a
standardized measure of muscular power.
Work Samples can
involve a variety of law enforcement tasks.
The wall climb,
pursuit run, pursuit obstacle courses, and body drags comprise other
The passing point
should be set in a manner consistent with
professional recommendations. The MED-TOX methodology for setting
level is based on multiple forms of evidence collected in the
job analysis, incumbent testing, and on the basis of expert judgment.
MED-TOX does not set passing
levels on the basis of the lowest scoring currently employed incumbent,
"one standard deviation below the mean," or by some other arbitrary and
Contact MED-TOX for
more information about police physical ability testing.