The Metropolitan Police Service is rolling out a three-month pilot for the use of spit guards in a small number of custody suites, following a full consultation in those areas.
The Met says it has a duty of care to its officers and staff. The issue of spitting and biting is a real problem – a particularly unpleasant form of assault, it rightly generates much concern among officers. Some of the follow-up treatment required after such an assault can be prolonged and unpleasant.
Over a number of years, the Met has been looking at potential ways of minimising the threat this issue poses to officers. Spit guards are a nationally approved piece of police personal safety equipment already used by 22 forces across the UK, including within London by the British Transport Police. The purpose of a spit guard is to protect officers from suspects who are spitting and biting by aiming to prevent the transfer of bodily fluids and reduce the risk to them.
Plans to trial the spit guards have been subject to a consultation involving local and national partners across the boroughs where the pilot will take place. There were many supportive voices who recognised the risks posed to officers and the need to protect our staff, and some concerns were raised which have been considered.
This pilot will take place for three months in five custody suites in north-east London. Custody suites provide a controlled environment where there is CCTV recording at all times and there is always supervision present.
After the trial, the Met, along with the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC), will assess its effectiveness and decide whether to expand the trial use of spit guards to other custody suites.
The trial will take place at Forest Gate Custody Base, Newham Borough; Redbridge Custody Base, Redbridge Borough; Fresh Wharf Custody Base, Barking and Dagenham Borough; Leyton Custody Base, Waltham Forest Borough, and Havering Custody Base, Havering Borough.
A pilot within the controlled environment of custody suites was first agreed in February by the Met’s Policy Forum, which is made up of officers and staff from across the organisation. At this time a consultation process about their use took place in Newham, however, following discussions with MOPAC the further consultation was undertaken in recent weeks before starting the pilot.