Weighty issue for police specials as hundreds fail BMI test
BURLY police officers were once part of British folklore.
But now it is claimed a new drive to appoint more special constables in East Yorkshire is being undermined by height and weight guidelines for would-be recruits.
New figures reveal no fewer than 250 applications from people wanting to be special constables in the Humberside force have been rejected in the past six months.
Police and crime commissioner Matthew Grove believes many fell foul of Home Office guidelines on body mass index (BMI) data, which measures body shape based on height and weight.
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Under the recruitment rules, applicants must not be classed as underweight or overweight as defined by their BMI.
While a BMI score of between 18 and 30 is considered acceptable, those scoring below or above are usually rejected and advised to do something about their weight before being considered again.
Under BMI, a score of 30-plus means someone is obese.
But Mr Grove said the guidelines needed a rethink.
He said: "I know of a number of young lads who play rugby and, as a result, are very fit yet they failed in their applications to become specials because their BMIs were too high.
"It is something I want to challenge because these are the type of people we should be actively encouraging to be special constables.
"They are the sort of people the public would like to see helping regular officers police our towns and city centres on a Friday or Saturday night.
"When people have gone to the effort of attending an recruitment event and taken to the time to fill in an application form, we should not be just turning them away on the basis of a BMI score."
Mr Grove has put emphasis on recruiting more volunteer special constables as a way of boosting police cover in the face of continued government funding cuts for police forces.
He said: "I would like to see more mature people coming forward.
"We also need to improve the way we retain specials because the figures show about one- third of new recruits leave the service after a year."
He said his aim was to see more specials and police community support officers becoming regular officers as a way of coping with natural staff turnover within the force.
He said: "If specials and PCSOs are willing to receive extra training to gain more experience, I believe they should be given every opportunity to become a regular police officer."