Physical Ability Test

Law enforcement is a demanding profession in which police officers risk their lives daily in order to protect the property, lives, and civil rights of others. Today’s police officer needs to be ready in body and mind to accept the daily challenges of the job. Officers must be able to respond quickly to crime scenes, conduct searches, make arrests, investigate crimes, handle crowds, mediate domestic disputes, use reasonable force when necessary to defend themselves or others, and relate to a diverse community in Washington, DC.

In order to ensure that sworn officers of the Metropolitan Police Department are ready to serve effectively in the Nation’s Capital, applicants must pass a Physical Ability Test. The Physical Ability Test has been designed to test the ability of applicants to perform physical tasks that are essential to carrying out the duties and responsibilities of a police officer.

The Physical Ability Test events are based on a study of essential work tasks performed by police officers in the Metropolitan Police Department. The study revealed that officers must be able to pursue, subdue, and arrest individuals, climb stairs, run, dodge obstacles, drag persons and objects, climb over and under obstacles, and operate a firearm safely. These are the tasks that are simulated in the Physical Ability Test. The skills that you must demonstrate in the test are skills that do not require prior experience as a police officer.

The Physical Ability Test consists of eight different events. The test simulates chasing a single suspect on foot, and encountering circumstances that could arise during the foot pursuit. The first seven events must be completed within one minute and twenty eight seconds. The eighth event is a separate event and is not timed. The events are as follows:

Event # 1: Patrol Car - Suspect Description - To begin the test, you will sit in the driver’s seat of a patrol car with the doors closed and the seat belt secured.  A test monitor will sit on the passenger side and ask you if you are ready to begin. The monitor will then play an audiotape which will instruct you to pursue a fictitious fleeing suspect who is wearing a particular colored shirt.  You will then be told to “GO” by the test monitor. Timing begins after the word “go.” You are to unlatch your seat belt, open the car door, exit the car, and proceed to the gymnasium to Event # 2. You may leave the car door open.

Event # 2: Obstacle Run - After you enter the gymnasium, you will weave around a number of traffic cones that have been set up in a single vertical line. You must go around each cone separately. You must not jump over any cones. If you knock any cones down, keep moving. You will then proceed across the gym floor to a set of stairs.

Event # 3: Stair Climb - You will proceed up two flights of stairs, cross the platform at the top of the stairs, and then go back down the other two flights of stairs. You may ascend or descend the stairs one or more at a time and you may use the railing while going up and down.  For your safety, you are not permitted to jump from one flight of stairs to another.

Event # 4: Suspect Drag - You will then proceed to a “dummy”, which weighs approximately 165 pounds. You may drag the dummy by grabbing the handle on the upper torso of the dummy and walking forwards or backwards. You may also carry the dummy, or partially carry and drag the dummy. Be sure to choose the approach that is best and safest for you. You must drag the dummy approximately twenty-five (25) feet. The dummy’s feet must completely pass through a double set of orange cones, which are placed about 10 yards away from the start point of the event.

Event # 5: Barricade Duck - You will then proceed to two tables that ate placed together lengthwise. You must crawl under the tables. If you upend the tables, you should still continue with the test.

Event # 6: Fence Climb - You will proceed to a chain-link fence which is approximately six feet high and eight feet wide. You must climb over the fence in the center section. You may not hold on to the outer poles for support. For safety reasons, you may want to climb over the fence by placing your feet in the links. You will be permitted as many attempts to climb the fence as you need, up until the time limit for the test expires.

Event # 7: Suspect identification - After climbing the fence, you will proceed to a table at which are seated four “suspects” who are dressed differently.  You will pick up the tag belonging to the suspect who matches the description given to you while you were sitting in the patrol car. You will then place the tag on a table located just past the finish line. Timing stops when you cross the finish line. Once you cross the finish line, you may not go back and repeat any of the prior events.

Event # 8: Weapon Dry Fire - After you cross the finish line, you will pick up a service weapon and dry fire the weapon one time with each hand. You must hold the weapon with both hands, arms extended. This event is not timed. You must successfully fire the weapon once with each hand.

Your decision to start an exciting and rewarding career at MPD begins with an interest card.

View the video for MPD's Physical Ability Test Procedures:

View the Physical Ability Test course information:

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August 6, 1861, Congress passed an Act which declared the boundaries of DC to constitute...

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...a police district to be called the “Metropolitan Police District”. The newly elected President, Abraham Lincoln presided over the creation of this new police department. Washington, DC was divided into 10 precincts; each headed by a sergeant with 150 privates divided among the precincts. An officer’s salary was $480 a year and they had to be at least 5 feet 6 inches tall, able to read and write, between the age of 25 and 45, and were required to provide their own guns.

March, 1865 – MPD handled their first Presidential Inauguration...

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...MPD intercepted John Wilkes Booth during his first attempt to assassinate President Lincoln at the inauguration of Lincoln’s second term.

In 1890 women were officially hired as Matrons which handled female prisoners and children...

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...In 1917, the Women’s Bureau of the MPD was created in order to give women a more active role in investigating. The Bureau became nationally recognized for its proactive ideas and methods.

In 1913, the Department purchased the first motorized vehicles (10 motorcycles) to assist the...

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...bicycle squads and by 1914, five “motor patrol” wagons were purchased. In 1915, the first police school was established to train officers in using their firearms and basic first aid.

In 1934 the first Metropolitan Police Boys Club was established The club was designed to...

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...keep young men out of trouble and provide them with positive role models, and the club still exists today as the MPD Boys and Girls Clubs. The club was such a success that other cities quickly followed in the footsteps of the MPD.

In November 1948, the Metropolitan Police Reserve Corps was established and...

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...first deployed on October 31, 1951 with the original responsibility to guard fire alarm boxes to prevent people from mischievously sounding fire alarms on Halloween Night.

In 1951 the Chief, Robert V. Murray established an Internal Investigations...

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...Division during his tenure.

In 1962 Officers began to patrol and monitor traffic in a private helicopter.

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In 1966 the first cadet class graduated. 

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May 1-4, 1971, “May Day” when over 50,000 demonstrators came to Washington to...

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...force the closure of the Government. This was the largest mass arrest in history with a total of 12,000 people arrested. Due to the professionalism and effectiveness of the MPD, there were no serious injuries to police officers or protestors, no use of deadly force, and very few complaints of misconduct.

In 1978, Burtell M. Jefferson became the first African American Chief of Police....

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...He was a very community minded person, having been a native of Washington DC and having attended American University and Howard University. His tenure saw a reduction in crime while also dealing with restrictions due to the energy crisis and threats of personnel cuts.

In 1988, the Department switched from the long issued Smith and Wesson .38 caliber...

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...revolvers to the Glock 9mm pistols after Washington DC was named the Nation’s Murder Capital.

In 1993 the Office of Internal Affairs was created by Chief Fred Thomas to promote...

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...accountability among MPD officers.

In 1997, Chief Soulsby authorized the re-striping of the Scout Cars...

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...They were changed from the blue stripe and gold seal of the 1960s, to a red and blue striping that is still referred to as the Pepsi can design.

In 2004, the re-birth of the Air Support Unit (aka helicopter patrol, Helicopter Branch) was...

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...returned (original disbanded in 1996 due to budget cuts) along with a small cadre of horse-mounted officers.

In 2006, the joint Police and Fire Communications Center moved to a newly built state of...

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...the art communications center located on Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue in Southeast.

In January 2007, Chief Cathy Lanier was appointed by Washington, DC Mayor Adrian Fenty... 

Learn More January 2007, replacing outgoing Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey. She was the first woman to achieve the position of Chief of Police in Washington DC.  In May 2012, Mayor Vincent C. Gray agreed to retain Lanier as police chief under his mayoral term.  Chief Lanier lead the Metropolitan Police Department until she retired 2017.  Chief Lanier was a great advocate for women in law enforcement and brought great technological changes to the MPD.  She was well known for her passionate involvement with the community.

In 2007-08, Chief Lanier initiated; patrol districts listserv; "Neighborhood...

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...Safety Zone” the replacement of in-car systems equipped with GPS.

On the morning of Monday, September 16, 2013, Aaron Alexis entered... 

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...Building 197 at the Washington Navy Yard, where he served as an independent contractor, and carried out the most deadly workplace mass shooting in the Nation’s Capital in recent memory.  Over the course of 69 minutes, Alexis terrorized thousands of employees of Naval Sea Systems Command, firing indiscriminately from a shotgun he had legally purchased two days earlier and a handgun he had taken from a security guard after mortally wounding the guard.  He would also get into multiple shooting engagements with responding law enforcement officers, seriously injuring a Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) officer.  In his final confrontation with police, Alexis ambushed and fired upon another MPD officer.  Fortunately, the officer was saved by his protective vest and was able to return fire, killing Alexis and ending his rampage.  When it was over, Alexis had shot and killed twelve people and injured several others.

Chief Peter Newsham was confirmed as the Chief of Police on May 3, 2017. 

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Chief Peter Newsham joined the MPD in 1989 and rose quickly through the ranks, serving in a number of district operational assignments. Chief Charles H. Ramsey promoted him to Commander of the Second District in January 2000. In June 2002, Newsham was promoted to Assistant Chief in charge of the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR). Chief Newsham was sworn in as the 30th police chief for the MPD on May 3, 2017. Chief Newsham holds a bachelor's degree from the College of the Holy Cross and a law degree at the University of Maryland School of Law. He is a member of the Maryland Bar.

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