NJ rulemakers on failing women police recruits: ‘If we need to change, change it’

By Andrew Ford

State police rulemakers on Wednesday discussed the greater rate of women, compared with men, who failed police academy physical tests in recent years, a disparity recently revealed by the USA TODAY NETWORK New Jersey. 

The Network’s reporting was discussed by the commission in a closed meeting and could be on the group’s agenda to be publicly addressed at their next meeting scheduled for October. But it’s unlikely any rule change would come before the next classes of police recruits enter the state’s academies. 

“I believe in the system and I believe if we need to change, change it,” James Sharrock, vice chairman of the commission, told the Network. 

The Network obtained state data that shows women failed up to 13 times as often as men following a rule change that gave candidates only nine workouts to grow stronger. Nobody can become significantly stronger in that time, according to a researcher at the Cooper Institute, which recommends exercises for testing police recruits which are similar to the test used in New Jersey. 

Three members of the 16-member New Jersey Police Training Commission, a group predominately composed of men who set rules for aspiring cops, have said recruits should show up to the academies prepared to pass the physical test. Commission member Dan Colucci stressed that the test itself is not impossible. 

Sharrock raised the possibility again Wednesday that other variables could skew the state data, like an influx of candidates from towns bound by the rules of the Civil Service Commission. Those towns are unable to dismiss an applicant who is clearly out of shape. 

It’s not possible to probe Sharrock’s idea with the data the Network obtained from the office of New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, but the Network is seeking more information to explore Sharrock’s point. 

Following the Network’s inquiry related to the investigation that published last week, a spokesperson for Grewal said the office recently convened a “working group” to review “(Police Training Commission) curriculum, policy and procedures and to study the PTC’s role therein.”

“This thing takes really careful and deliberate thought,” said Sharrock, who is part of the working group. “It’s a process.”