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Force releases spit guard figures

The youngest person to have a spit guard fitted was 15, whilst the oldest person was 53.

A force has released the number of times spit and bite guards have been used by officers since they were introduced 50 days ago.

Last year, 4,500 operational officers from West Midlands Police were issued with the extra equipment and since December 12 they have been used on 40 occasions.

The youngest person to have a spit guard fitted was 15, this individual spat in an officer’s face, whilst the oldest person was 53.

Of the 40, 27 were white (68 per cent), four were Asian, four were black and five were not classified. Only one of the 40 was a woman.

In 2016, 231 police officers in the West Midlands were spat at.

Work by the Police Federation as part of its Protect the Protectors campaign found that the issue was massively under reported with officers wrongly believing assaults are just “part of the job."

West Midlands Police Federation Chairman Tom Cuddeford, who described the figures as “unsurprising”, explained how spit guards are a deterrent and could reduce the number of these incidents in the future.

Two weeks ago an offender threatened to spit at an officer, but when informed a guard would be used he calmed down.

“Ultimately we are very pleased that the spit guards have been introduced,” Mr Cuddeford added.

“We will never stop that first spit, but it is another tool for officers to utilise and a preventative measure.”

Mr Cuddeford also said circumstances have improved since the introduction of the kit.

Previously officers resorted to using jumpers to cover offenders’ faces and in one case officers had to use a pillowcase, resulting in an investigation.

“The kit is Home Office approved with no jumpers or pillowcases used and reducing the number of complaints.

“Officers understand the nature of the job, but it is no excuse for people to assault them.”

Chief Inspector Kerry Blakeman, from the force’s operations department, said: “The guards don’t stop the first spit but they do prevent other officers from being further assaulted in this way and offer innocent bystanders protection." 

Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson, said: “The introduction of spit guards has been a difficult, but necessary decision to protect our officers.

“The police protect the public, it is therefore important we protect our officers.

“Having examined the issue, I am reassured medically-approved spit guards are much safer than improvised alternatives that potentially put the detainee in danger. I am also re-assured that the use of spit guards remains rare, with 40 uses by 4,500 officers so far."