Spit and bite guards will give vital protection to frontline officers
The decision to issue spit and bite guards to all frontline officers for the duration of the pandemic has been described as ‘sensible, proportionate and most welcome’ by the Police Federation for Northern Ireland (PFNI).
PFNI Chair, Mark Lindsay, says the guards will give officers increased protection during the pandemic and be an effective measure in limiting attacks on officers.
Mr Lindsay said: “The Chief Constable is to be congratulated for making this decision. Within the PSNI, it will be universally welcomed. The PFNI has consistently made the case for the wholesale introduction of spit and bite guards to all frontline officers who too often have to deal with offenders who spit at or bite them.
“I recognise this decision may be criticised by some, but I would respond by saying that our men and women have human rights, too, and deserve to be protected when threatened and assaulted.
“Safeguards will be in place with officer body-worn video providing irrefutable evidence of safe usage in difficult circumstances. Each time a guard is used, the incident will be referred to the Police Ombudsman. No other Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) comes close to providing officers with the protection they get from spit and bite guards.
“Police officers deal with violent offenders on a daily basis. With 237 spitting/biting incidents since April there is an obvious need to protect officers who are spat at by people who say they have Covid-19 or other infectious diseases.
“Issuing spit and bite guards to frontline officers is sensible, proportionate and most welcome. They will cut down on officer injuries and greatly reduce the genuine fear officers have of being spat at by an infected person during this Covid-19 pandemic. They will give vital and necessary protection to frontline officers who are regularly subjected to intolerable attacks. They will also reduce the amount of physical force sometimes required to restrain an offender engaging in this abhorrent style of assault.
“In no way do spit and bite guards conflict with Human Rights legislation. Police officers are victims of crime in these circumstances and should be afforded the best protection possible. We are delighted this decision has been made and look forward to an extensive roll-out.”