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Overweight police officer sues force after failing fitness ‘bleep test’

An overweight policewoman has taken her former employer to a tribunal over claims she was pushed into resigning over pressure to pass the bleep test.

Detective constable Rebecca Tiffin, who is suing Surrey Police for disability and sex discrimination, told a tribunal panel yesterday that she had an underactive thyroid gland, which had caused her weight gain, and a history of depression and stress and anxiety conditions.

“My conditions are mental and physical impairments that have a substantial and long-term adverse effect on my ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities,” she is reported by The Sun as telling the Reading tribunal.

Tiffin, whose colleagues nicknamed her ‘Blue Moon’ because of her regular absences from work, had been employed by Surrey Police since 2000 and became a police constable in 2001.

However, in 2012, her newly appointed line manager instructed staff to carry out a fresh round of conflict training, including a bleep test – a gruelling fitness exam involving running shuttles within a gradually decreasing time limit.

Tiffin asked for her initial June 2012 test date to be changed because of childcare issues. However, detective inspector Rebecca Molyneux, her line manager, told her this was  “not good enough” and asked her to come up with a solution.

Although Tiffin did take the conflict training on the agreed date, she did not take part in the bleep test, saying she had a sinus infection.

Molyneux told Tiffin the following month that, by not taking the bleep test, she had failed her training, which she would now have four months to retake and pass.

Tiffin took the bleep test in October, and failed. After further failures to pass the physical exam, the constable was placed on an unsatisfactory performance procedure, which can ultimately lead to a police officer being dismissed from the force.

“I had been trying to improve my fitness following a running plan but I struggled with the speed side of things,” she said.

Tiffin also claimed there were several events in 2012 that had made her feel  “overly scrutinised” and like she was being singled out, such as being asked to complete paperwork other officers had not.

Tiffin recalled how, in a January 2013 meeting with Molyneux and a detective sergeant, she was told she “was not seen as a team player or pulling her weight”. She said she was “crushed” and left in tears by the comments.

However, Surrey Police’s lawyers told the tribunal that all officers were required to pass the bleep test to make sure they were fit enough to carry out their duties.

The force also argued that it had made efforts to accommodate Tiffin’s training for the test, including giving her time to visit Surrey Police’s Guildford headquarters to do practice runs.

Surrey Police told the tribunal Tiffin had not initially made it clear to them that her inability to pass the bleep test was linked to her disabilities, although Tiffin said she had flagged her thyroid problems to Molyneux and had been seeing occupational health about bouts of crying at work.

Of the conversation Tiffin said had left her “crushed”, Molyneux added: “At the time of the conversation with Rebecca I was not aware that she was upset by what I had said to her. I made it clear to her that if what I said had upset her, that was not its purpose and apologised for this.”

 

The tribunal hearing, which is expected to last nine days, is ongoing.

 

Added: 02-05-2017
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