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Federation members seek spit guard protection

Federation members seek spit guard protection

Members want the Force to issue them with spit guards that they can use to protect themselves when there is a danger they may be spat at.

In a survey, conducted by Leicestershire Police Federation, 96 per cent of members who responded said they would support the introduction of the protective equipment.

Tiff Lynch, the Federation chairman, will now discuss the issue and the survey findings with chief officers.

"Protecting officers from the health risks of being spat at should be of paramount importance," says Tiff, who represents the Force's constables, sergeants and inspecting ranks.

"I have heard some people opposed to officers using spit guards talking about members of the public's human rights.

"But what about the human rights of police officers who are trying to serve their communities and uphold the law and yet find themselves used as society's punch-bags, being spat at or even bitten?

"Surely, forces have a duty to protect police officers and provide them with spit guards as part of their personal protection kit?"

A total of 667 officers took part in the voluntary questionnaire and the overall results painted a clear picture of how they feel towards the issue of being spat at while doing their jobs.

Over a quarter (27 per cent) said they had been spat at while on duty and, not only did 96 per cent say they would like to see spit guards introduced but 97 per cent also said they would be confident using them.

As the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) tackles the issue of the growing number of assaults on police officers with its Protect The Protectors campaign, some forces have already announced they are introducing spit guards for their officers.

Others are considering following suit, and the results of the Leicestershire survey suggests its officers also want more protection. During 2015/16, there were 330 recorded assaults on Leicestershire officers but the Federation believes such incidents are under-reported and also says that despite the obvious impacts of being physically attacked, officers are just as concerned at being spat at.

One officer said: "A suspect spat in mine and a colleague's faces in November last year (2016). I found the whole experience degrading and disgusting. I would rather he had punched or kicked me instead.

"Because he had spat in my face, I had to contact the Force's occupational health department and then had to go to the Glenfield Hospital for a blood test to check whether my Hepatitis B immunity levels were satisfactory.

"The whole process caused a great deal of anxiety and distress on my part. Had a measure been in place to prevent him spitting, it would have saved all of that happening.

"That is not to mention the time taken to get my blood test, discussing the incident with occupational health, and filling out an incident report, as well as obviously investigating and interviewing the suspect."

PFEW's Protect The Protectors campaign is calling for courts to impose harsher sentences on those convicted of assaulting officers. Working with MPs such as Halifax's Holly Lynch (Labour), the campaign is also seeking: a change in legislation, better training and access to equipment, more accurate data on police assaults and improved welfare support.

Leicestershire Police Federation is backing the campaign with Tiff explaining: "Sadly, some officers seem to accept being assaulted as part of their job. It is not and nor should it ever be considered so.

"We need to see tougher sentences for assaulting police officers and other emergency service workers not just as a punishment for those convicted of these attacks but also as a deterrent to others."