Colorado Springs, CO - Concluding a two-year lawsuit against Colorado Springs Police Department, a federal judge ruled on Wednesday that the department discriminated against female officers for mandating a fitness test.
U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch determined that the physical tests "shamed and ostracized" officers while providing "meaningless" results, according to Jakob Rodgers with The Gazette.
The issue stems from a decision in 2009 when former Colorado Spring Police Chief Richard Myers mandated that all officers undergo physical fitness tests.
The physical fitness tests included push-ups, sit-ups, an agility test, and a running cardio test.
After the test was put into place, 40 percent of females failed the test and 9 percent of males failed.
Despite 49% of the department failing the test, the next Chief, Pete Carey mandated that all officers pass the test annually or they would be placed on desk duty for six months. If an officer failed the test again after six months, they could be fired.
Judge Matsch did not find the requirement reasonable. "To retroactively impose that requirement on women who have invested their lives as career police officers is fundamentally unfair," Judge Matsch wrote.
The requirement to pass a fitness test or be fired is also unprecedented in American police departments, the judge noted. Police officers are civilians, not in the military, and an ongoing fitness requirement for officers who age or get injured is an unreasonable burden, especially when issued retroactively.
The fitness tests also do little to properly evaluate if an officer is fit for duty. Considering that no other police department had this requirement, and their officers still somehow manage to do their jobs, the reasoning behind the decision was called into question.
The 12 plaintiffs in the lawsuit, all female, failed their physical test on the first try and the lawsuit states that it caused at least one 24-year veteran to quit to avoid sudden termination.
"It was horrible," former Lieutenant Maggie Santos said. "I didn't want to leave. That isn't when I had planned to retire. I still had more career in front of me, and it was taken." Lieutenant Santos was already assigned to a desk job in Internal Affairs prior to the physical test, but she was still threatened with termination.
"The women are wonderful professionals, and all they wanted was to be able to serve crime victims and the citizens of Colorado Springs," the plaintiff's attorney, Donna Dell'Olio said. "And now they're going to be allowed to do that."
The plaintiffs said that they went forward with the lawsuit to protect younger female officers.
"The reason why we did it was for the younger women," Santos said. "They won't appreciate it now when they're in their 20s, but in 20 to 25 years, they'll appreciate what we did, and we're doing it for them."
"They did this at great peril to their careers. And they did it for the younger women who are coming up behind them," Dell'Olio said.
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