Physical Examination of Applicants for the New York Police Force

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Print removed from Harper's Weekly, XXXIV, no. 2035, p. 1222.

Caption: “Physical Examination of Applicants for the New York Police Force – Putting Prospective Patrolmen Through their Paces – Drawn by Charles Broughton [see p. 1213]";from p 1213 [from Hathi Trust]
THE effort of the Police Commissioners of New York,
under the reform régime, to make the police force of the
city better than it was in the days of its woful degen-
eracy under Tammany rule, has not been confined to the
infusion of a spirit of common decency and common
honesty among the rank and file. The commissioners are
getting better men physically for new policemen than
ever before. The standard for the physical examination
has been raised from five to ten per cent, in some of the
more important tests since Mr. Roosevelt and his col-
leagues took hold of the department.
Every applicant for appointment to the police force of
New York city has to undergo three distinct examina-
tions. The first is a medical, the second a mental, and
the third a physical examination. They are all conducted
under civil service rules, and all are rigid. Probably the
physical examination is the one most dreaded.
This examination is conducted by Dr. A. H. Brown in
a little gymnasium on the top floor of the Criminal Courts
building. It is designed to test the strength and muscu-
lar development of the applicant. The development is
noted by a series of measurements of chest, waist, abdo-
men, arms, and legs. The data as to strength is secured
by actual tests. The illustrations on another page show
accurately the ordeal through which the applicant passes.
Gauges have been adjusted to certain instruments, and
when the dials show that certain marks—fixed after much
study and experience—are reached, a percentage of 100
is recorded. A man, for example, who can make the dial
on the machine for testing the capacity of the lungs reach
the figures 320, gets 100 in that test. On the dial for test-
ing the strength of the lungs he must make a record of
25. Probably the test for the arms is the most exhaustive.
To get 100 the applicant must hang from a ladder and
pull his chin up to his hands ten times. He must then
lower and raise himself ten times on parallel bars. Few
ever accomplish this. Tests are made of the strength of
back, arms, and legs, the muscles in the chest and abdo-
men. The “grip" of a candidate is shown in what is
called the “traction pull,” and is also most difficult. A
final test of agility is made by jumping.
All measurements are taken when the men are stripped.
No man can be appointed a policeman who does not re-
ceive at least 60 per cent. in development and 60 per
cent. in strength. In the development test muscular con-
dition is the most important factor. In the strength test,
agility, arm and leg power, and lung capacity count as
most important. Between five and ten per cent. of those
who pass the medical and mental examinations fail in the
gymnasium test.


December 21 1895 (created)


New York (N.Y.). Police Department
New York (N.Y.). Police Department -- History -- 19th century
New York (N.Y.). Police Department -- Pictorial Works

Object identifier



Riccio Collection, Special Collections, Lloyd Sealy Library, John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY


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