From January 2018, Avon and Somerset Police will introduce spit guards to protect officers who work in difficult and challenging circumstances to keep local people safe.
Twenty five police forces across the country are already using spit guards.
Last week out of 28 injuries against officers, 4 were officers being spat at. Since April 2017, out of 487 recorded assaults against police officers, 79 involved spitting.
ACC Stephen Cullen said: “The increase in reports of spitting against our officers has convinced us that we need spit guards to protect ourselves. Each day we face being spat at, putting us at risk of HIV, hepatitis and tuberculosis and the degrading assault can have a lasting psychological impact.
“Only last week a woman with hepatitis C was spitting infected blood and saliva at four female officers as they looked after her for 11 hours in custody. The only protection currently available was riot helmets to protect their faces.
“We believe our officers should have the right kit to do their job and this includes spit guards. We also hope their introduction will deter people from spitting at police officers in the first place.”
Vince Howard, Chairman, Avon and Somerset Police Federation said: “We are pleased to see the introduction of spit guards for front line officers.
“This option affords those officers, who are increasingly subject to this abhorrent act, the opportunity to protect themselves from the risks of serious communicable diseases.”
“This is a protection and prevention measure and we welcome the support offered by the Constabulary in making this equipment available”.
Spit guards will only be used by trained officers in situations where someone says they are going to spit, has attempted to spit or has already spat.
A spit guard will only be used when an officer’s body worn camera is switched on.
Use of spit guards will be recorded and this data will be made public. The Police and Crime Commissioner’s Scrutiny of Police Powers Panel, which is made up of local people, will also review the use of spit guards as part of their quarterly meetings.
The decision to introduce spit guards is part of the support for the Police Federation proposed Assault on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill to highlight the number of assaults on officers.
Spit guards will be rolled out to all operational officers from January 2018 after they have completed their training.