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Deputies get break on fitness in Davis

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FARMINGTON — There's at least one job in Davis County that's usually open.

It's one that requires you to be able to run 1.5 miles in 16 minutes, bench-press 70 percent of body weight one time, perform 30 sit-ups in one minute, 25 pushups with no time limit and make a vertical leap of 13 inches.

That's just the physical fitness test.

Other job requirements may include subduing tough-as-nails prisoners, investigating both vicious and petty crimes, saving lives and using a firearm.

That's what you can expect as a deputy in the sheriff's office.

Unfortunately for the sheriff's office, low unemployment means fewer people are signing up for law enforcement.

So Davis County instituted a new policy to retain the officers it has.

Deputies will no longer be fired if they fail to pass a fitness test required of all sworn officers.

The Davis County Board of Commissioners approved the policy change during Tuesday's commission meeting.

A Utah unemployment rate of around 3 percent means new recruits are harder to find, so the sheriff's office needs to keep as many officers as possible, said Mel Miles, Davis County director of personnel management.

"We want to make sure we didn't have policy that was harming our ability to recruit and keep skilled workers," Miles said.

Davis County Sheriff Bud Cox told commissioners the old policy gave officers who failed to pass the fitness test 270 days to get back in shape before retaking the test. Otherwise, they faced termination.

In the past year before the policy change, about six officers have been fired and eight or nine more have opted to retire, Miles said, but the majority of the department's 228 officers have no problem passing the test.

Now, instead of firing sworn officers who can't pass the fitness test, the sheriff's office requires those officers get a doctor's authorization to work.

After receiving doctor approval, an officer returns to work but is subject to sanctions that can keep him or her from receiving raises or promotions until the fitness test is passed.

The sheriff also has the discretion to reassign officers to different jobs depending on ability, Miles said.

Nearly all of the fitness policy for the sheriff's office is intact, Cox said, including the provision that officers who meet a certain fitness level become eligible for extra time off.

E-mail: jdougherty@desnews.com