I-Team: Concerns raised about fitness test before officer’s death

CLEVELAND- The FOX 8 I-Team has found concerns raised about a Cleveland police fitness test weeks before an officer collapsed this month during exercises. Popular veteran officer Vu Nguyen died later at the age of 50.

The man known simply as Officer Vu had to be rushed to the hospital during a physical fitness test to get into the K-9 unit.

The I-Team has found in early June, the Black Shield Police Association sent an email to command staff about a 53-year-old officer planning to take the same test.

The organization wrote, “The physical fitness standards currently required are of concern for officers of (his) age. …there is no differentiation between gender and age for the completion of the physical fitness evaluation requirements.”

Sgt. Vincent Montague leads the Black Shield Police Association, and he said, "And that's one of the missions of the Black Shield, just to ensure safety equality and fairness for all officers on the job.”

Tuesday, we met relatives of the officer who died, and they are struggling to figure out why he died.

The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner is searching for the cause. It could take months to review the officer’s hospital records and do follow-up testing.

So it’s not clear yet what role, if any, the fitness test actually played in the death. The officer took the test on a day when records show Hopkins Airport recorded a temperature of 92 degrees with high humidity.

The I-Team reviewed the physical fitness requirements for officers to get into the canine unit. They have to do 21 push-ups in a minute; 31 sit-ups in a minute; run a mile and a half in 13 ½ minutes; plus, they go through an obstacle course.

An email shows the police department told the Black Shield last month, in part, “We will review the requirements and ensure we use national best-practices…”

Meantime, the chief’s office tells the I-Team there’s no specific cut-off for training with any specific temperature or condition.

A spokesman wrote, “…supervisors, instructors, and trainers closely monitor the well-being of the officers.”

But now a new call to look into all of this.

Sgt. Montague said, "Hopefully, the city will come up with some kind of policy to ensure that officers are safe."

Again, no one knows yet if the testing helped lead to the officer’s death. But again, clearly, concerns had been raised.

We have asked repeatedly if there’s any kind of internal review of what happened with Officer Vu, and the chief’s office has not responded directly to that question.

More on Officer Vu Nguyen.