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West Midlands Police Federation

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Simple choice on spit guards

13 March 2019

The Federation’s national chair has been praised for challenging the human rights organisation Liberty over ‘ill-informed’ comments about spit guards.

John Apter published an open letter to Liberty in which he states: “The act of spitting phlegm or blood, or biting an officer is degrading and disgusting. The police have a duty of care to protect the public and the use of spit guards does not just protect officers but also protects members of the public. My advice to those who don’t want to have a spit guard applied is don’t spit or bite, it’s quite simple.”

John’s comments came after Liberty issued a statement about the roll-out of spit guards by police forces across England and Wales.

Liberty said: “At least 30 police forces in England & Wales now use spit hoods. They are dangerous, degrading and unjustified. They have no place in the future of policing and must be relegated to the past.”

But West Midlands Police Federation chair Rich Cooke, who has welcomed the national chair’s comments, said that while people insist on biting and spitting at officers, the spit guards should continue to be issued by forces.

“For me, it’s very simple. If you don’t want to wear a spit guard, don’t spit at police officers or bite them,” he explained.

“All too often our officers are finding themselves the victims of these disgusting attacks and they have a right to protect themselves.”

John has invited Liberty to attend a training session on the use of spit guards and to discuss the issue further but, so far, the offer has not been taken up.

He also pointed out the effectiveness of spit guards, telling Liberty: “Prior to spit guards being issued, a person who was biting or spitting at officers would either be put on the ground or restrained with their head forced down. The application of a spit guard uses less force and prevents the act of spitting or biting from continuing. Officers will always have to justify their use. Your blanket statement that spit guards must not be used offered no alternative, it would either be use more force or for the officer to allow themselves to be spat at or bitten.

“I have heard some say that police officers should try to talk to the offender to prevent them from spitting or biting. I’m afraid the real world is not that simple and many of those individuals we deal with are violent and would use any opportunity to inflict harm on a police officer.”

Read the national chair’s letter in full.

Diary

October 2019
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