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WQAD reporter sees if she has what it takes to pass FBI's physical fitness test

News 8's Shelby Kluver made the trip to Springfield, Illinois, to see if she has what it takes to become a law enforcement official.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Halfway through the mile-and-a-half run, I told myself it would be okay to tap out. 

It took everything in me to keep going as I jogged past a group of FBI instructors (with one shouting, "9:36, 9:37, you've got two laps to go!") on a windy Tuesday morning. 

But it isn't easy becoming an FBI agent. 

On May 24, the Springfield, Illinois, FBI office invited reporters from across the state to participate in a media day, allowing journalists the chance to experience exactly what it takes to become an FBI agent. 

To complete the event, reporters had to attempt one minute of situps, a 300-meter sprint, as many pushups as possible as well as a mile-and-a-half run.

Much to my dismay, only two journalists were brave enough to show up for our trial, leaving no room to hide. 

We began with the situps. In a typical test, women would be required to reach at least 36 crunches in order to pass. Under the watchful eyes of the local agents, I was able to execute 26 (mostly) proper situps. 

Then came the 300-meter sprint, which I completed in 1:03 - one second faster than the minimum time for FBI agents. It was a sweet victory and the only event I technically qualified in. 

But reality came crashing in for the pushups (only two were completed) and the mile-and-a-half run (which was finished three minutes over the maximum time allowed). 

However, I'm not the first person to suffer through the exam. 

"Our general percentages, from the time somebody starts the application to the people who go to Quantico, are less than 2% or 3% of people who are successful. And (the fitness test) is one of the areas that yes, we lose a lot of people," said Special Agent Harvey Pettry, the applicant coordinator for FBI Springfield. 

When he's recruiting, he looks for individuals who have a desire to serve, are well-educated and physically capable of the demands of the job. 

"If you take any of those individual events by themselves, it's not too difficult. But when you add the four events together, and you do so in that order, it is extremely physically challenging," Pettry said. 

And it's not just in the FBI that the physical test weeds people out. The same requirements are used for those interested in joining local law enforcement, such as the Moline Police Department. 

"We do see probably somewhere around 20% of the people are not prepared to run the fitness exam," Chief Darren Gault said. "The Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police did a survey of about 240 agencies statewide and they were seeing upwards of 40-50% washout rate in the testing process." 

It's just another hurdle for an industry already struggling to recruit new employees. 

Since 2020, Moline police have seen a 66% spike in departures, including retirements and resignations, from the department. 

"Previously, the department over the last 15 years averaged losing about five officers a year. Last year, we lost 15," Gault said. 

He's also noticed a 93% decrease in applicants showing up for the physical test. Far from the hay days of the 90s, when more than 200 people would attend the fitness exam, Moline only had 15 individuals turn out for their last round. 

"And I just hired five people on May 4, so it's difficult to have enough good quality candidates to hire when the list or the pool is very small," Gault said. 

He believes the best way to combat the recruitment cycle is through education and continued partnerships with local universities, faith institutions and community organizations. 

"These are great opportunities to serve your community as well as make a good living and we really need to get that word out," Gault said. 

However, nothing could be more clear than this: after finishing with -5 points (well below the nine points needed to pass), I will not be quitting my day job anytime soon.

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