SPIT hoods are being issued to every frontline police officer after an ‘increase’ in incidents of people spitting blood at officers on the streets.
The move has been welcomed by the body that represents rank-and-file police officers in Hampshire – but others have raised concern about the hoods.
As revealed by The News, chief constable Olivia Pinkney had been considering a roll-out of the hoods, which had been used in custody in police stations.
Now all officers, including special constabulary, will be issued with the one-use kit for use on the streets.
Assistant chief constable David Hardcastle told The News: ‘It’s a disgusting act and it does make people feel particularly vulnerable by being spat at.
‘They should not have to be subjected to it.’
He said he believes the public will back the decision, and officers will be accountable for using the lightweight mesh hoods.
Senior police officers at the force will monitor the use of spit hoods.
Since April last year, 126 police have been spat at in Hampshire, with 600 across the force and Thames Valley Police.
Of those, 60 incidents involved the spitting of blood.
John Apter, Hampshire Police Federation chairman, said: ‘Being spat at is a vile horrendous act, the consequences can be dire.
‘We saw over in mainland Europe a police officer was spat at in the face and tragically contracted tuberculosis and died as a result.’
He added: ‘In the real world of policing we see people are often extremely violent towards them, they will spit and lash out towards them.
‘Some people will even bite their lips, bite their tongues and use blood and spit as a weapon.’
Police will have annual training to use the spit hoods, which are only used on people who have been restrained and are about to spit or have spat during an incident.
They can be used on children, the force confirmed.
The £1.50 hoods – mesh with plastic inside to stop the spit – cannot be left on someone who is not monitored.
No-one has contracted diseases in the 126 incidents.
Hampshire’s police and crime commissioner, Michael Lane, said: ‘I have scrutinised this decision carefully, including taking the opportunity to wear an updated version of the guard myself.
‘I will continue to hold the chief constable to account that spit guards remain the most appropriate and effective method for protecting officers and responding to this type of assault.’
Councillor Lynne Stagg, member of the Police and Crime Panel that holds Mr Lane to account, said the panel has not been told.
‘It would have been nice to see it in the Police and Crime Plan,’ she said.
‘If the police are introducing this and he’s gone along with it there’s a step being missed out here because he holds the chief constable to account and we hold him to account.’
Cllr Stagg added: ‘I can understand why they use them but it’s a bit old-fashioned.’