Dwarf police concerns as ministry considers amendment

Opposition leaders fear that the Austrian police force could become a “squadron of midgets” as the interior ministry plans to scrap a minimum body height rule for applicants.A spokesman for the federal interior ministry – which is headed by Johanna Mikl-Leitner of the conservative People’s Party (ÖVP) – announced today (Tues) that the plan was to get rid of a ruling enforcing young men interested in working for the police to be at least 168 centimetres (cm) tall. Austrian women applying for a position must have a minimum body height of 163 cm.The ministry official argued that federal police would be able to “choose only the best” if the federal parliament axes the current body height restriction. He added that there was no date set yet for when existing rulings could be reformed.Freedom Party (FPÖ) representatives in the police’s works council warned that Austria could get a “midget police force” if the interior ministry’s idea finds approval among political rivals.Some observers have claimed that the suggestion was nothing but a desperate attempt to attract more Austrians for a job with the police as many would-be officers pass basic fitness and grammar tests at the first stage of their police academy education.Vienna police chiefs said last year that around four out of 10 applicants did not pass the fitness and health checks.Earlier this year, federal police officials admitted that a cooperation programme with state-owned postal services provider Post AG and mobile services firm Telekom Austria (TA) did not kick off as successfully as planned.The partnership was established to relieve police officers from administration and office duties to get them on the streets as crime figures shot up across the country. Post AG and TA were looking for alternative solutions for superfluous staff they could not dismiss due to contract agreements.The interior ministry said in February that 759 employees of Post AG and TA have applied for positions with the police since the staff swap model had been presented one and a half years earlier. The ministry explained that 81 people withdrew their applications before sitting the basic grammar and spelling tests while 304 failed.