In what is a sign of the times, Devon and Cornwall Police will introduce spit and bitesi guards (SBG) to limit the number of assaults on officers, staff and other emergency service workers such as paramedics and nurses.
Superintendent Ian Drummond-Smith, said: “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 guard services 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. 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% of all assaults against our staff. It is not just saliva spat but also blood and other bodily fluids.
Superintendent Ian Drummond-Smith, continued: “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 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.
Devon and Cornwall Police will join 26 other forces nationally who have deployed SBGs in operational and detention settings to protect officers, staff and detainees. This includes Dorset Police who adopted SBGs in December 2018. The Police Federation has been fully engaged in this work and supports the options that have been chosen.
The Assaults on Emergency Workers Bill 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 campaigned was aimed at raising awareness of and reducing the number of incidents of assaults on emergency workers.
South Western Ambulance Service Chief Executive, Ken Wenman, said: “Any assault on staff across the emergency services is unacceptable. We therefore support our police colleagues in the safe and appropriate use of these spit and bite guards.”