Spit and bite guards
Police officers should have the necessary and appropriate kit and equipment to do their jobs and this includes spit and bite guards.
Some forces have made spit and bite guards available to frontline officers, including Thames Valley and Hampshire, following the lead of Police Scotland, and the Police Federation of England and Wales is keen to see the protective measure more widely available, forming part of our Protect The Protectors campaign.
Spitting is an abhorrent form of assault, with some officers saying they would 'prefer to be punched in the face than spat at'. The effects of being spat at for an officer can be long term, as they may need to undergo anti-viral treatment and have the uncertainty of infection - currently the assailant is not required by law to give a blood sample which would let officers know if they are at risk of contracting life-threatening diseases. This can obviously have a big impact on their day-to-day life at this time and mental health.
Potentially fatal infections such as tuberculosis can be transmitted by spitting as well as blood-borne infections such as hepatitis C and HIV if the assailant has blood in their mouth. The number of hepatitis C cases nationwide has doubled in the past decade, and in London 59% of injecting drug users – a demographic police will regularly come into contact with – have the disease, which can lead to severe liver damage and liver cancer.
Spit and bite guards, made from a mesh fabric, are put on offenders during an arrest when they have already started spitting or biting or if there is a clear and identified risk of them spitting or biting. Lincolnshire Police and Crime Commissioner Marc Jones tried one on (pictured right) and said: "I spent 15 minutes in a spit guard to see what it felt like; can't say I minded it too much. The other option of course is not to spit at police officers."
The Centre for Public Safety is also in support of spit and bite guards, 'a protective and preventative measure that is overdue'.
In addition, we are calling for a wider roll-out of other essential pieces of kit including Taser and body-worn video.
The National AIDS Trust provides guidance for police forces on HIV as well as general information on HIV and AIDS.