The Pennsylvania State Police announced last week it will make it a priority to hire as many as 65 women who were otherwise qualified to become troopers but were not hired because they could not meet rigorous physical fitness standards – standards that apparently were not required to perform a trooper’s job duties.

And while the hiring of more state troopers, and a group of people who will diversify the force as well, is wonderful news, we want to caution the state police to not admit people who are incapable of performing a demanding job.

We know one of the largest recent criticisms of police forces is a lack of minority and female members. PSP currently only has 314 female troopers in a statewide force of just more than 4,500.

Encouraging more women and racial minorities to apply should help forces not only have better relations with minority communities, it should also lead to more women and minorities aspiring to join the force as they will see positive role models who look like them.

But diversification cannot come at the expense of relaxing what must be demanding standards to become a member of a truly elite law enforcement unit like the Pennsylvania State Police.

Troopers often deal with people who are undergoing stressful, unpleasant events in their lives, not to mention those who may be dangerous and/or mentally unstable, including people who specifically want to harm or kill law enforcement officers.

Needless to say, that’s not a job for everyone or even most.

It takes a special type of human to deal with the incredible stresses of law enforcement without making a mistake – because as we’ve recently seen elsewhere, a mistake by police can prove to be fatal.

The state police cannot sacrifice its standards, no matter what, but the agency needs to make sure those standards are only designed to show who has what it takes to be a trooper and aren’t merely an artificial barrier to keep certain types of people out.

We welcome the influx of female troopers and hope that people of all genders, colors, religions and backgrounds are inspired to serve in law enforcement – just as long as they’re truly qualified for the job.

Altoona Mirror

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