How do you create a comprehensive physical abilities test for Court Officer positions?

That was the question put to Security’s training team, which has been working with vendor Industrial/Organization Solutions (IOS) and the Human Resources Department over the past few months to create a new Court Officer physical abilities test (PAT). The PAT will be used as part of the hiring process for those individuals who passed the qualifying exams administered in 2014 and 2015 and applied to be a Court Officer.

A group of Court Officers (see chart below) were selected to serve as proctors for the PAT.  These officers worked with Security Director Jeff Morrow, HR Director Mark Conlon, and IOS to develop the seven-step PAT.

The development of the PAT included a field test performed by current Court Officers. Based on the results of more than 150 court officers who took the field PAT in December 2015 and January 2016, IOS will establish a cut score for the final PAT.  Candidates who pass the PAT are eligible to move on to the interview process.  

“The development of this new physical test component of the Court Officer qualifications was truly a team effort,” says Director Morrow. “Over the past two years, our training has improved greatly in an effort to increase professionalism within the department. We’ve undergone a dramatic change in the way Officers are recruited and hired. The PAT will enable us to further expand our ability to select and retain highly qualified candidates and new Court Officers.”

Security has focused on improving its Court Officer training to meet public safety standards and to seek national accreditation. In fiscal year 2015, the department introduced a six-week training academy for 125 new Court Officers; the training academy will expand to eight weeks in fiscal year 2016. In addition to the new PAT, all Court Officers receive emergency first responder training and the active shooter protocol A.L.I.C.E. (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) to prepare them to deal with emergencies.

Test description. The PAT simulates situations that Court Officers face on the job which require a certain level of physical ability. Working with IOS, the team created a 7-step series of obstacles and tasks or exercises that, when completed together, are a comprehensive assessment of the physical abilities necessary to perform essential job tasks related to situations Court Officers are expected to encounter. The seven components are:

  1. Weight lift: 30 lb. bag
  2. Weight carry: three 15 meter passes (approx. 150 ft.) with a 30 lb. bag
  3. Straight-line run: 100 meter dash (approx. 330 ft.)
  4. Stair climb: 14 cycles (up and down) = 140 steps total
  5. Obstacle run: 100 meter distance weaving through cones
  6. Dummy drag: 25 ft. each way (50 ft. total) of 165 lb. dummy
  7. Dexterity pull: left and right (x2) lateral pulls on dexterity handcuff simulation machine

Map it out: See the Massachusetts Trial Court Officer Physical Ability Diagram pdf format of Court Officer Physical Ability Diagram

Security Department staff who served as proctors or supervisors of the field PAT were:

Jeffrey MorrowDirector of SecurityOffice of Court Management
Heather BrouilletteManager for Security Standards & TrainingOffice of Court Management
Kenneth CharlesCourt OfficerSpringfield District Court
Sylvia CotterCourt OfficerSpringfield District Court
Nicholas DeAngelisCourt OfficerHampden Superior Court
Edward FitzgeraldChief Court OfficerFall River Complex
Jennifer GalvinCourt OfficerNorthampton District Court
Scott GierlichCourt OfficerEastern Hampshire District Court
Reginald GrahamChief Court OfficerOffice of Court Management
John JusseaumeCourt OfficerFall River District Court
Gary LevesqueCourt OfficerLawrence District Court
Bryant MauerCourt OfficerBerkshire Juvenile Court
Wayne McDanielChief Court OfficerOffice of Court Management
Timothy O’LearyChief Court OfficerEast Brookfield District Court
Daniel PadillaCourt OfficerWorcester Trial Court
Brianne QueeneyCourt OfficerEdward W. Brooke Courthouse

So you think you can be a court officer?
The Court Bulletin visited the Massachusetts State Police Barracks last month during the initial trial run of the field PAT. I wanted to experience first-hand how challenging the new test would be for someone who wasn’t a Court Officer, and who hadn’t completed the rigorous Court Officer Academy training.

So how did I do? During down time, I ran the course myself to see how challenging it was. I was most intimidated by the dummy drag, which occurs almost at the end of the test. Test takers are required to flip “Randy” the 165 lb. dummy on his back, rotate him 180 degrees, and drag him head first around a barrel 25 feet away and back to the starting position “in a controlled manner.”

Bottom line: the new PAT is challenging. The dummy is heavy and cumbersome. The stair climb and sprints, if done properly, will leave you gasping for breath. The 7-step course was difficult for me -- a reasonably fit, 40-something woman. Court Officer candidates who are prepared for the PAT may find it hard to complete as well, but doable.