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Force listens and acts on Federation pressure on spit guards

Officers are set to be issued with spit and bite guards following a successful campaign by Leicestershire Police Federation.

The Federation had put pressure on the Force to introduce the protective equipment after its members voted overwhelming in support of the move.

"We carried out our own survey of members earlier this year and 96 per cent of the officers who responded said they wanted the Force to issue them with these guards to help protect them from being spat at or bitten," says Tiff Lynch, chairman.

"The Federation is committed to the welfare of officers and, as such, once we had find out our members' views we arranged to speak chief officers to put pressure on them to act on the survey findings.

"We are aware that some people are opposed to officers using spit guards but for me it's really quite simple - if you don't want to wear a spit or bite guard do not attempt to spit at or bite a police officer.

"For far too long, police officers going about their duties, serving and protecting their communities have been subject to these hideous attacks and I am afraid enough is enough; we must protect those who protect the public.

"I am pleased that the Force has listened to us and to our members."

Tiff has worked closely with chief officers to ensure that the design of spit guard introduced in the county protects officers but, unlike those used in some other forces, does not cover the person's head completely.

Chief Constable Simon Cole announced yesterday that the Force would be issuing fine mesh guards which officers can fit over the mouth of anyone who attempts to spit at them or bite them.

A total of 667 officers took part in the voluntary Federation 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 tackles the issue of the growing number of assaults on police officers with its nationwide Protect The Protectors campaign, some forces have already introduced spit guards for their officers.

On the back of the campaign, a Private Member's Bill, backed by MPs last month, will introduce new offences including wounding or assault when perpetrated against an emergency worker in the performance of their duties; compel those suspected of assault - including spitting - who may pose a health risk to undergo blood tests; make it an offence to refuse to undergo such tests and lay down tough sentences for those convicted of these new offences.

The bill will go forward for a second reading in Parliament in October.

Leicestershire Police recorded 28 assaults on police officers during the latest quarter. But the figures, which cover the period from January to April this year, may not be a true record of the actual number of assaults according to Leicestershire Police Federation since not all officers are correctly recording details when they are victims of an assault.

"While we welcome the Force's decision to issue the spit guards, this is not the end of our campaign. We will be working with the Force to ensure that all assaults on police officers and police staff are properly recorded; only then can we assess the true extent of the problem and ensure that we tackle this issue effectively," says Tiff.

Last year, Leicestershire Police Federation initiated the launch of a Seven-Point Plan on officer and staff assaults which sets out the standards for how the Force will respond to ensure it properly supports those who are attacked in the course of their duties.