26 February 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 has 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 Tony Wetton, chair of Derbyshire Police Federation, says spit guards should only be relegated to the past if people stop spitting or biting police officers and that John Apter was right to speak out on officers’ behalf.
Tony explained: “Sadly, spit guards have become an essential part of officers’ kit due to an increase in the number of cases where people are spitting at officers or trying to bite them. While Liberty may feel they are ‘degrading’ for the person who is made to wear one, where is its concern for police officers who day in, day out are doing their best to protect their communities and yet find themselves spat at?
“Many officers I have spoken to have said they would rather be punched than spat at which gives an indication of just how disgusting and vile it is to find people attacking them in this way.”
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 has 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.”