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.