ALL Staffordshire Police officers are to be provided with spit guards as personal issue on their utility belts.
The controversial move was announced jointly by the Police and Crime Commissioner, Matthew Ellis, and the Force today.
Staffordshire has previously made them available in police vehicles and custody blocks, but not to every officer as part of standard issue kit. The move comes after significant national debate, which has seen public opinion divided.
The PCC offered Chief Constable Jane Sawyers the funding to equip all officers with spit guards having listened to views expressed by each side of the debate.
Mr Ellis said:
“This subject has attracted some controversy nationally, but we should not ask officers to carry out their work in protecting the public without protecting them.
‘I’ve seen bodycam footage of an arrest in Staffordshire where the individual being detained spat at officers. Physical violence can make the police’s job very difficult but the wait, often for weeks, for an officer to find out if being spat at has caused infection, such as hepatitis must be horrendous for the officer and their family.”
Chief Constable Sawyers said:
“Police officers have told me that they fear more the consequences of being spat at than of being physically assaulted.
“Policing can be a dangerous job and spitting is a real risk, which can have serious outcomes in some circumstances. The PCC and I are in agreement that personal issue spit guards is a proportionate response to a real threat faced by officers.”
As part of the new arrangements, use of the spit guard will join, use of Taser, domestic abuse incidents and Stop and Search in being subject to ‘enhanced oversight’ by the PCC’s office. This involves mandatory use of bodycams during an incident and dip sampling of that footage by each area’s Safer Neighbourhood Panel on top of normal oversight arrangements.
The full rollout will start in the next few weeks and includes additional training for officers.