POLICE across the area could be widely issued with controversial masks to use on people who try to spit or bit officers.
Currently spit hoods are only available for use in police station cells but Chief Constable Olivia Pinkney has agreed to ‘look at’ a wider roll-out.
Spitting is an offensive and dangerous actJohn Apter
The potential change comes after calls from Hampshire Police Federation chairman John Apter and the National Police Chiefs’ Council.
Mr Apter said: ‘Spitting is an offensive and dangerous act. There’s a risk of infection. We’ve seen, although only one case, an officer in Europe who died from being spat at. Officers have got a right to defend themselves.
‘If somebody is spitting at police officers, which is an assault, you either put them face down on the ground, which is a violent act in itself, or use the resource available.’
Hampshire police refused to say how many times they have been used but officers in Sussex used spit hoods 295 times in 18 months.
Hampshire also said the force did not have a risk register. Sussex, which allows them to be used outside of custody, provided a policy saying officers must not leave anyone in a spit hood unsupervised due to ‘the slight risk of it inducing an asthma attack and the risk of vomiting, having difficulty breathing, or bleeding profusely from the nose or mouth area.’
In September the items were due to be rolled out across the Metropolitan police but a trial was axed. Sussex Police has previously been criticised for using such a device on an 11-year-old girl who had an undiagnosed ‘neurological disability which can cause challenging behaviour’.
Hampshire Strategic Advisory Group looked at the use of hoods and the force decided to use them in custody.
West Midlands police’s 2010 risk assessment says the force has never treated anyone for a disease after contact with saliva, that risk of HIV infection from spit is one in 1,000 and there is no evidence of transmission of hepatitis.
‘Given the new recommendation from the NPCC, and the views from police officers, the chief constable has agreed it makes sense to look at it again,’ a police spokeswoman said.
‘This piece of work is underway and we will update our officers and the public once this work is completed.’
He added: ‘The NPCC has recently issued guidance to all forces across the country saying “it is our recommendation that forces give serious consideration to the issue of spit protection to all font line officers”.’
Speaking after Scotland Yard anounced it would axe its trial, Amnesty International’s UK arms programme director Oliver Sprague previously said: ‘Spit hoods can be a cruel and dangerous form of restraint.’