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Force reveals fifth of all assaults on officers relates to spitting

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Devon and Cornwall to introduce protective equipment in line with rest of the country.

On guard: Spitting involved in 18 per cent of all assaults

On guard: Spitting involved in 18 per cent of all assaults

Date - 19th January 2019
By - Nick Hudson - Police Oracle


One of the last remaining forces to introduce spit and bite guards is falling in line with the rest of England and Wales.

The Devon and Cornwall force has signed up to safeguard its officers after discovering a fifth of all assaults in 2016 and 2017 were related to spitting.

The force’s decision to counter what it admits is an “atrocious act” comes after the Police Federation called on the remaining ‘stragglers’ resisting implementation of the protective equipment to be mindful of “wrong perceptions”.

With Devon and Cornwall now on board – only Durham, Lancashire and the Met Police have yet to follow suit.

The announcement by Devon and Cornwall Police – just a month after neighbouring Dorset adopted the guards – means 27 forces nationally have already deployed SBGs in operational and detention settings to protect officers, staff and detainees with a further 13 in the “planning to supply” stage.

The spit and bite guards are regarded as strong armoury in limiting the number of assaults on officers, staff and other emergency service workers such as paramedics and nurses.

There were 26,000 assaults on police officers in the past year while attacks on prison officers rose by 70 per cent in the three years to 2017 and 933 incidents involving an attack on firefighters in 2017-18 was the highest recorded figure since data was first collected in 2010.

Devon and Cornwall Superintendent Ian Drummond-Smith, said: The force has taken time to consider a number of options to protect officers and staff; taking into account relevant research and the suitability of various alternatives.

“In addition to this, we have also ensured that the preferred option has been robustly medically tested to ensure the safety of those in our care.

“The SBG is being introduced for the safety and support of our officers, staff and those we work alongside.

“Biting and spitting is an atrocious act and the new SBGs will provide additional protection to help keep everyone safe.

“Too often, officers, security guards or NHS staff are spat upon, not just with saliva but also with blood and other body fluids.”

Such assaults can have distressing implications for officers and staff and it is important that they have the right equipment to keep them safe, the force says.  Training for officers and staff has commenced to ensure proper application of SBGs is carried out.

Between 2016 & 2017, 216 officers and staff were spat on in Devon & Cornwall alone, accounting for 18 per cent of all assaults against our staff.

Supt Drummond-Smith added: “Devon and Cornwall Police needs to ensure the safeguarding of those in our care, with particular consideration given to those who are vulnerable or have mental health needs.”  

The Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act 2018 was recently amended to double the maximum penalty available for assaults on emergency workers, including spitting.

Emergency services across the South West came together last year to launch the #unacceptable campaign; in partnership with Exeter City Football Club and Exeter Chiefs rugby club.

This championed raising awareness of and reducing the number of incidents of assaults on emergency workers.

South Western Ambulance Service chief executive, Ken Wenman said his crews fully supported policing colleagues in the “safe and appropriate” use of spit and bite guards

View On Police Oracle

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