SEVEN out of 10 police officers have been found to be obese, MPs heard on Wednesday, as the justice minister briefed parliament over the new recruitment criteria the government planned to introduce.
“We need a police force of suitable and capable persons and not a police whose officers are selected by other criteria,” Ionas Nicolaou told the House legal affairs committee, referring to nepotism.
According to the new regulations, men need to be at least 1.70m tall and women 1.65m. Their body mass will also be criterion and apart from written exams there is a medical examination and a psychometric and athletic evaluation. A panel is going to be appointed to supervise the selection of candidates.
“Due to the continuous and increased challenges of the nature of the police’s tasks we need to strengthen the force with members who are the most appropriate to respond adequately to their duties,” committee chairman Giorgos Georgiou said.
Nicolaou suggested removing the personal interview from the process, a subjective criterion which has allowed nepotism over the years, he said.
“We recommend that this criterion is replaced by psychometric tests, which have been selected following a study. The tests have been adopted in many EU countries and the US,” the minister said.
“Selected tests can determine their honesty, their ability to resist corruption issues, their common sense, the ability to respond immediately to duties even in critical moments where immediate decisions need to be taken,” he added.
To carry out their duties effectively officers must also be physically fit which is not the case at the moment.
A study by the Cyprus Sports Organisation KOA, found that 80 per cent of police were currently overweight, and 70 per cent were obese.
Seventy per cent of men and 80 per cent of women in the profession were in poor physical condition.
When asked what procedures will apply to existing members of the police force who might not meet the new criteria, Georgiou replied there were regulations that appled and rules need to be established that ensure the continuity and consistency of the new criteria for all.
“When we talk about modernising recruitment processes, this modernisation should last over time,” he said.
Georgiou could not say if current or newly-hired members of the force would be dismissed, but the committee heard that rules and criteria will be put in place that will be quantifiable, they will motivate the members of the force, and be an important factor in promotion and advancement.
AKEL MP Aristos Damianou said that based on the times and social needs, an adjustment of the criteria in relation to the recruitment of police officers is needed.
“These criteria,” he added, “must be quantifiable, objective, and to the extent possible, promote a sense of meritocracy and good governance without discrimination between men and women, and without any other forms of discrimination, which unfortunately exist now in the police force.”
According to the justice minister, there are currently 655 vacancies for positions in the police force.
Discussion of the bills is to start next week.