Hundreds of police officers issued with spit guards
PUBLISHED: 16:48 07 September 2017 | UPDATED: 16:48 07 September 2017
Chiefs say incidents of spitting at officers are under-reported
More than 700 Kent Police officers now have added protection against being spat at by people they arrest.
The officers and volunteers from the special constabulary, as well as designated detention officers working in police custody, have been trained in using spit guards and issued them as part of their personal protective equipment.
The guard is lightweight, fully-breathable, made of mesh and is 98 per cent see-through.
Chiefs say it will only be used when it is proportionate and necessary, for example when the level of resistance and behaviour displayed by a detained person causes concern for their safety or the safety of the officer and other members of the public.
Although spitting is not particularly common, it is believed that incidents of spitting at officers are under-reported.
An officer currently has to wait up to six months if they are spat at to find out if they have been infected and in many cases they have to take medication which can cause undesirable side-effects and significant emotional distress.
There are a number of measures put in place to minimise any distress experienced by the detained person.
Wherever possible the officer will give a verbal warning to the subject to inform them that their behaviour, if it continues, is going to lead to the use of a spit guard.
If a guard is used, the person will be observed at all times and officers have been trained to look for signs of difficulties breathing or any medical issues.
The guard will be removed immediately in the event of a medical emergency.
The vulnerability of juveniles and people experiencing a mental health crisis, acute behavioural disorder, or any other psychological impairment will be taken into account by officers considering applying a spit guard.
Assistant chief constable Tony Blaker said: “Kent Police has a duty of care to protect its officers in the course of their duties and spit guards are an additional piece of equipment that will protect officers, and in some cases the public too.
“There can be no excuses for spitting – it is completely unacceptable behaviour. Therefore our message is simple: Don’t spit and officers won’t have to apply a guard.”