PFNI tells Policing Board to end dithering on spit and bite guards

The chair of the Police Federation for Northern Ireland (PFNI) is demanding to know why the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) is the last force in the UK to be able to use spit and bite guards.

Mar 27, 2020
By Paul Jacques

Mark Lindsay says the failure to immediately introduce the guards in Northern Ireland is inexcusable and places officers at increased risk during this worsening Covid-19 crisis.

“We have already seen one incident where our officers were exposed to someone coughing and spitting on them and claiming to be infected with this virus. In these cases the issue is clearly life or death,” he said.

The guards are made of mesh and plastic and are placed over the head of a person who is threatening to spit or bite officers.

Mr Lindsay said: “Every other police service in the UK has these spit and bite guards on issue to protect their officers from this disgusting and dangerous practice. However, despite representations to both PSNI and the Northern Ireland Policing Board (NIPB), we are still unable to have this equipment issued.

“These mesh guards are a requirement under health and safety legislation, so there is no basis for stalling. The Federation and the PSNI have made the case for their introduction to the NIPB and it is quite remarkable that it still hasn’t given approval.

“This inaction is playing with the health of police officers. For those on the frontline and sound health reasons, we must have every protection available to deploy. As Covid-19 worsens, and enforcement is stepped up, our officers will find themselves in difficult and potentially dangerous situations.

“They must have these spit and bite guards to protect themselves and, by extension, their work colleagues and families. We don’t want officers being forced into self-isolation because they have been spat at. Self-isolation means they are unavailable for duty, which places added strain on a service that has considerably fewer officers than the required peacetime minimum of 7,500.

“My message for the NIPB and PSNI is simple: give us the tools to do our job safely and professionally and end this ridiculous indecision on these essential guards.”

The PFNI plea came as Police Scotland revealed it would begin a roll-out of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to frontline officers in order to protect them from coronavirus.

More than 630 officers from Operational Support Units, Border Policing, custody and some rural divisions have already received the kit, which includes masks, gloves, boot covers, coveralls and goggles.

The extended roll-out of fitting, training and issuing of protective equipment will get underway next week across all local policing divisions as well as within specialist services.

Deputy Chief Constable Malcolm Graham said: “Our officers are playing a vital role in keeping people safe at this extraordinary time and we want them to have the right protective equipment to enable them to do their jobs with confidence.

“We have had several teams working continuously on procuring and distributing vital supplies to staff and these are being issued across priority areas, with significant orders for more items, including masks, goggles and gloves, scheduled for delivery over the coming days and weeks.”

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