Police release number of spit guard deployments 50 days after introduction

West Midlands Police have released the number of times spit and bite guards have been used by officers since they were introduced 50 days ago.

Last year, 4,500 operational officers were issued with the extra equipment and since 12 December they have been used on 40 occasions. The first actual recorded use involved an officer giving a verbal warning that the guard would be used, this was deterrent enough to stop the person spitting. 

The youngest person to have a spit guard fitted was 15, this individual spat in an officer’s face, whilst the oldest person was 53. Of the 40, 27 were white (68 per cent), four were Asian, four were black and five weren’t classified. Only one of the 40 was a woman.

In 2016, 231 police officers in the West Midlands were spat on leaving them at risk of being infected with potentially deadly diseases. Work by the Police Federation as part of their Protect the Protectors campaign found that the issue was massively under reported with officers wrongly believing assaults are just “part of the job."

As well as protecting officers and passers-by, the guards also reduce the level of force officers have to use on a spitting detainee. Previously, the only method of stopping a spit attack was by using several officers to physically restrain the person. 

The spit guards - which cost £11,000 - are made from a loose-fitting, net-like material. They have a reinforced section around the jawline to prevent spitting and biting. The devices are medically certified and guarantee no mouth or airway blockage, to prevent asphyxiation through the ingestion of fluids or solids. They allow clear visibility which helps reduce panic and avoids the escalation of violence. 

All officers issued with guards had to complete training on their safe fitting, they will also have regular refresher training. They are only fitted to a person who has already spat or who threatens to spit . When fitted, the wearer is constantly monitored and the guard removed at the earliest opportunity. 

The fitting of a guard on a detainee is classed as a use of force under Home Office regulations and is recorded as such by West Midlands Police. Chief Inspector Kerry Blakeman, from the force’s operations department, said:

“When the guards were introduced, we reassured people that if they were used it would be recorded, their deployment will also be scrutinised by an independent panel in February. We have made that data available after the first 50 days and we will continue to regularly report back on the results.

“The guards don’t stop the first spit but they do prevent other officers from being further assaulted in this way and offer innocent bystanders protection." 

Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson, added: “The introduction of spit guards has been a difficult, but necessary decision to protect our officers. The police protect the public, it is therefore important we protect our officers. 

“Having examined the issue, I am reassured medically-approved spit guards are much safer than improvised alternatives that potentially put the detainee in danger. I am also re-assured that the use of spit guards remains rare, with 40 uses by 4,500 officers so far." 


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