Physical Qualifications to Be a Police Officer

by Bronwyn Timmons

Police officers enforce laws, investigate crimes, apprehend criminals and keep civilians safe. They may regularly face physical encounters or foot pursuits with suspects, and as a result, must be in top physical shape. People who are interested in pursuing a career in law enforcement should be at least 21 years old and must meet all physical requirements prior to applying to a police academy.


Because of the physically demanding nature of a police officer's job, he must be in the normal weight range for his height. Candidates may be rejected if they are underweight or overweight. Most law enforcement agencies have a scale that reflects minimum and maximum ideal weights for officers according to height. For example, an officer who is 6 feet tall should weigh no less than 160 pounds and no more than 205 pounds. If a candidate does not meet the ideal weight expectations at the time he applies, he may, at the discretion of the agency, be given time to either gain or lose weight.


Police officers may need to use their firearms in the line of duty. Or, they may need to carefully observe or spot suspects in a crowded street, so good vision is required. Not only do police officers need to have sharp vision, they must also have good color and depth perception. Most agencies allow officers to have uncorrected vision of 20/30 in one eye and 20/40 in the other with a total corrected vision of 20/20 with contacts, glasses or laser eye surgery. Officers must be able to identify 13 or more of the first 15 Ishihara plates in a color perception test. A candidate will also need to have a physical eye exam to make sure she does not have any degenerative diseases or defects, such as glaucoma or macular degeneration.


While conducting a search warrant or entering a building where a suspect may be hiding, police officers need to have sharp hearing in order to audibly detect any threats. Police officers should be free of any hearing defects and able to perceive a wide range of sounds. If a candidate relies on a hearing aid, he may be disqualified at the discretion of the agency.

Physical Fitness and Strength

Most law enforcement academies require applicants to pass a physical test that includes strength, flexibility and speed exercises. These may include timed sit-ups, a sit and reach test, a bench press test and timed walk, jog and run tests of up to two miles. Some agencies may adjust passing scores to account for physical differences between males and females, but this is not always the case. A female applicant may be required to complete a mile run in the same time as her male colleagues.

Musculo-Skeletal System

Police officers undergo a rigorous physical examination that assesses all parts of the musculo-skeletal system to make sure there are no afflictions -- large or small -- that could interfere with their ability to perform in the present and in the future. Police officers must have functioning use of both arms and both legs. Any defects or deformities to the limbs or spine could be grounds for disqualification. Such examples might include arthritis, scoliosis or hammer toe.

Respiration and Circulation

Aspiring officers should not have any diseases or conditions affecting their lungs or circulatory system. These might include asthma, high blood pressure, heart murmur or heart disease. For minor, correctable issues -- such as high blood pressure -- a candidate may be given time to correct the condition, at the discretion of the agency.

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