The Metropolitan Police Service (Met) is carrying out a consultation with partner organisations, community representatives and independent groups, as well as magistrates across north-east London, about a pilot for the use of spit guards in a small number of custody suites. The Met will be collecting views on this until 5 December.
The Met has a duty of care to its officers and staff - the issue of spitting and biting is a real problem, it is a particularly unpleasant form of assault which rightly generates a lot of concern amongst 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 and staff. One of the options that have been considered is spit guards. Spit guards are a nationally approved piece of police personal safety equipment and are already used by 22 forces across the UK.
A pilot within the controlled environment of custody suites was agreed in February by the Met's Policy Forum, which is made up of officers and staff from across the organisation. A consultation process about their use took place and involved community advisors from Independent Advisory Groups, in addition to local magistrates and judicial staff in one borough. However, with a new administration coming into City Hall since then, the Met has listened to concerns and is consulting further and wider before starting any pilot.
Following this consultation, the Met hopes to pilot the use of spit guards for three months in five custody suites in north-east London. After the trial, the Met, along with the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC), will assess the success of it and decide whether to expand the use of spit guards to other custody suites.
The trial is planned to 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.