THAMES Valley and Hampshire police have been issued with spit guards for use on suspects.
The spit guards are made from a light, see-through, breathable material that goes over a suspect’s head and contains a section that prevents the person from spitting.
TVP made the decision jointly with Hampshire Constabulary with the spit guards issued to front line officers from the start of this month (February), following training on usage.
David Hardcastle, assistant Chief Constable Operations on lead operations for both forces, said:
“Our officers put themselves at risk every day and we want to ensure that they have the appropriate equipment to deal with the challenges they face.
“Everyone should be able to go to work without the possibility of being assaulted, including being spat at.”
Since 1 April, 2016, a total 306 TVP officers have reported being assaulted by being spat at.
Of these, 30 officers reported being exposed to blood-borne virus contamination risk as a result of fluid from the subject entering their mouth, nose, eyes or open wound.
Hampshire police, who already use spit guards in custody, reported that since April 2016, a total 126 assaults involving spitting had been recorded, with the spitting of blood increasing.
Independent Human rights organisation, Liberty, has said the spit guards are “Cruel and degrading,” with concerns about using them on children.
Other criticism includes that spit guards are humiliating, could cause panic and would make it difficult to see if a person was having difficulty breathing.
Spit guards are used by 17 of the UK’s 49 police forces.
Spit guards will only be used on suspects who have already spat at officers, or who are thought to be about to spit, and only when a suspect has already been handcuffed, according to police.