This is the official blog of ex-Sgt Ellie Bloggs. I was a real live police constable then sergeant for twelve years, on the real live front line of England. I'm now a real live non-police person. All the facts I recount are true, and are not secrets. If they don't want me blogging about it, they shouldn't do it. PS If you don't pay tax, you don't (or didn't) pay my salary.

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Monday, July 11, 2011

Run, Wimmin, Run

Warning: This post contains feminist views.

Inspector Diane Bamber has received wide-spread mockery for her potential pay-out after failing the riot shield run - a 500m very slow "dash" in full riot gear.  As usual, it's been labelled a crazy example of political correctness gone too far.  As someone who passed the old "bleep test" easily at 8.1 and was appalled when it was reduced to 5.4 to allow unfit women into the job, I have a different view of the shield run.

Riot shields are 5ft6 tall.  The average British woman is 5ft4, the average man is 5ft9 (possibly 1-2 inches taller for police officers).  Therefore for most women, the shield is about the same height as them, which means to run without tripping over it, you have to loft it away from your body and off the ground, and cannot tuck the handles into your waist.  This magnifies its weight considerably the shorter officer.

Also, in a real riot situation, it is unlikely you will ever have to run in a slow jog for 500m.  More likely, you will be dashing quickly in lines, or running backwards, or standing for hours in rows.  Being just over 5ft6, I struggle on the shield run (though have never failed it), but found the actual training exercises easy - still in full kit and with the shields.  Conversely, enormous blokes who pounded out the shield run with great ease were exhausted after ten minutes of drills up and down the training site.  

In truth I think that a far greater standard of fitness is needed for riot work than just a 2min45 jog, but that the height of the shields does make it proportionately harder for women.  The answer is not to make the test easier, nor to worry about upsetting the poor delicate characters who have not prepared for it properly. The answer is to make the test relate to the job at hand, and to prove its worth in the standard of trainee turned out by the system.  That way no man or woman can have cause to complain if they are not fit enough.

All of the above said, personally, if I were a female inspector with many years experience, I'd be more humiliated by taking out a lawsuit about my own lack of fitness, than by being sent home from a training day.

'Diary of an On-Call Girl' is available in some bookstores and online.


Blogger A Polis Man said...


We did away with the shield run years ago, ours in now 3 phases of shield advances and back in 90 seconds so, so all told about 60 metres in 90 seconds

11 July, 2011 19:18

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Once again, a ridiculous case of someone claiming discrimination because they are treated the same.

11 July, 2011 20:17

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just to clarifythat, GMP actually don't use long shields for the run, or intermediate shields for that matter. In fact inspector bamber will have failed using a round shield.

11 July, 2011 20:30

Blogger PC Bloggs said...

Last Anon - interesting, Blandshire uses the long shields.

11 July, 2011 21:45

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shields are held at the side in the carry position as well.

11 July, 2011 22:10

Blogger Lex Ferenda said...

Ellie - Inspector Diane Bamber is a bloody disgrace and embarrassment to the police service. She was moved from a neighbourhood role to HQ because of incompetence. Why did she decide at 30 years service to take on a public order role when she is so unfit. You can only surmise that she saw this as an opportunity to boost her pension fund before she retires. The sooner the better. Surely a candidate for Pension Reg. A19???

I don't agree with you regarding the shield run. It may be a long shield in some forces but you hold it sideways hanging from a straight arm. It does not need to be lifted during the run. Many forces, including Manchester, use round shields.
I have twice been in situations where we have had to run with full kit and shields. Once we had to run more than a kilometre past hundreds of New Age Travellers vans to get to the head of the queue and rescue officers who were being attacked.

This case has raised serious issues around general fitness testing. As you state, the recruits initial test was reduced to just 5.4 to prevent court cases such as this. This level is ridiculous and we have fat, unfit recruits waddling through the door as a result, who only get fatter and more unfit.

The NPIA were trying to develop an annual fitness test, which I think is essential. Pay bonuses would have been dependent upon passing.
I believe that the recruitment test and annual fitness testing as well as advanced testing for specialist roles such as PSU, Firearms etc. are now under threat. I don't believe that it is possible to have a job/role specific test that will be relevant but prevent women sueing.
I think we need to develop the best test we can and once agreed, legislation will have to be introduced to prevent women from using it as a cash cow.
Best wishes. Lex Ferenda

11 July, 2011 22:26

Anonymous Anonymous said...

How long before a firearms officer who can't hit a barn door because he's half blind sues?

12 July, 2011 08:56

Anonymous Ruf said...

I still can't get over some of my lot using a round shield as an improvised sledge the winter before last.
That and managing to get filmed doing it...

12 July, 2011 11:20

Blogger Stressed Out Cop said...

Was not 500 English yards (how did metres get used?)the distance from the school holding centres used at Notting Hill when it used to go bent every year and it was actually policed.

I think it was called a Shepherd! and you did need to get there quickly to clear the streets. I did one back in the day and our ladies managed just fine.

12 July, 2011 15:17

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You missed out some other options; bringing back the height restrictions for women and men, or not allowing women on Level II teams at all. In fact, not allowing women in ANY department except Child Protection, Domestic Violence and the typing pool would be a start?

Just saying....

12 July, 2011 17:52

Anonymous Sean said...

Why not have shorter shields for shorter people?

12 July, 2011 18:22

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember that bit of snowy fun.
Was it Botley or South park?
Anyway, it did more good for that cities police/public relations than anything an office bod could dream up.
Is 60 metres in 90 seconds hard?
I only ever run a bath so I dont know.

12 July, 2011 18:53

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sean, the shields are not personal issue, You grab one from a van as it starts to go bent, so different size shields for different people wouldn't be practical. Also not great if you're in the second rank at six foot (a la moi) standing behind someone who is five foot six with a shorter shield as the snooker balls and scaffold clips come flying in...

12 July, 2011 19:25

Anonymous Anonymous said...

An obvious solution is only have short people in the police.
Plus maybe tall camera men to record the results.

13 July, 2011 02:21

Anonymous painauchocolat said...

Completely agree with Ellie and Lex Ferenda.

In the force I worked in there were several officers (often older, senior ones) who made Chief Wiggum look like Kate Moss.

How ya gonna catch that shoplifter, guv?

13 July, 2011 13:31

Anonymous Ted said...

I was at the Gleneagles G8 as a level 2. When we mustered in Glasgow I was part of a group of about 75 cops. I looked around before we boarded the buses. There was 3 females. Where's your equality now?

Many females failed the fitness test. As well as a run our test involved a few other bits including holding the shields overhead for periods of time while stepping up and down some sort of kerb.

I agree the test is slightly harder for smaller people (male or female. In the same way wrestling with a 14 stone drunk is harder for a small person.

Which is why the old height limit
should not have been abolished. Like it or not the job can involve strength and force.

A general ongoing fitness test is the way forward with tougher tests for specialist roles.

And I'd bring back height limits as well. In the interests of equality why not a unisex height limit of 5ft7?

14 July, 2011 13:41

Anonymous painauchocolat said...

I was always told that the minimum height limit was abolished so as not to be seen to discrimate against people from certain ethnic backgrounds who tended to be shorter, e.g. Asians.

Having said that, a 5'7" copper who's built like the proverbial outside toilet is probably more use in a violent situation than a 5'10" lardarse.

14 July, 2011 17:59

Anonymous Ted said...

"I was always told that the minimum height limit was abolished so as not to be seen to discrimate against people from certain ethnic backgrounds who tended to be shorter, e.g. Asians."

I've heard that too but I think it is BS. Would the police hire dwarfs as cops? If not, why not? Surely that is dicriminating against them.

If the answer is no then it proves my point that height and size do matter. We are just arguing about where we set the bar.

I think the current situation where there are cops at 5 feet or less is wrong.

14 July, 2011 22:51

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where's your equality now? said Ted

Where's your misogyny now? says I.... right here on this blog and his name is Ted!

"Equality" between men and women was deliberately "misunderstood" by the insecure and at the same time, macho men. They "misunderstood" what equality between the sexes actually means. It means that men needed to accept that women were their equals and not their inferiors, and just different to men. Equality meant that women should no longer be regarded by men as stupid domestic slaves who had no rights whatsoever.

It did NOT mean that women were supposed to behave like macho men,aggressive and all tough and bluster, fighting with the idiots and the drunks.
Although some women in the police force may choose to do that, and that is up to them.

Women have a role to play in the police that is no less important than that of a male officer. Men and women have different skills and strengths and that does not make either men or women better or more superior than the opposite sex. That is what "equality" is meant to be.....and that men need to grow up and stop feeling like they have to dominate and control everyone and especially women.

15 July, 2011 02:09

Anonymous Anonymous said...

@Anonymous 02:09

"It did NOT mean that women were supposed to behave like macho men,aggressive and all tough and bluster, fighting with the idiots and the drunks.
Although some women in the police force may choose to do that, and that is up to them."

It should mean the women that choose to do that are up to the role... not to change the rules so they can be put in danger by not being up to the role.

15 July, 2011 10:34

Anonymous Ted said...

"Women have a role to play in the police that is no less important than that of a male officer."

So what is the woman's role in the police. I though roles should allocated according to abilities not gender?

15 July, 2011 23:16

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just because someone, whether female or male, is a few seconds slower in a running test, it doesn't mean that they are not "up to the role". Some people who are less than "average" height can be quite nimble, quick, and ruthless in a "fight".

Tall and hefty may be useful sometimes, for sheer muscle and weight when it's the first thrust of a defence, or an "attack". But even that sort of military formation needs people to guard the rear. Just because a woman ran a few seconds slower on a test, doesn't mean that she wasn't "up to the role". If she wasn't up to the role, she wouldn't have put herself through the training nor the test. Failing it by a few seconds doesn't mean the female officer would be no good in the role, or that she would be in any more danger because of that.

Some of the "rules" imposed upon officers have been unreasonable, and even ridiculous at times. Is it such a good idea to have no flexibility whatsoever, when decisions as to whether someone is capable of dealing with a full blown street riot? Police officers are not robots who all run at the same speed. Even tough beefy coppers need someone to watch their backs....the woman who runs a few seconds slower than her male colleagues just might be perfect for that role.
It's called "teamwork"!

16 July, 2011 01:14

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just tailor your armour.

17 July, 2011 12:29

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"she wouldn't have put herself through the training nor the test. Failing it by a few seconds doesn't mean the female officer would be no good in the role, or that she would be in any more danger because of that."
given that the shield run doesn't involve any training , other than that you yourself its quite apparent that she didnt want to put the effort in herself. Being bigger than the average bear myself I am carrying more weight than some ( and not that much of it is fat) and whilst I can cope with the shield run , being bent to 'hide' behind a long shield isnt good for my back but its 'put up or shut up'. I havent yet decided to sue GMP for not providing bigger shields and come the day I think the aches and pains arent worth the effort I declare myself out of the running. Its time some people grew up and accepted that maybe their are others more suited to a role than them that or put the effort in to reach the MINIMUM standard.

28 July, 2011 17:29


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