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Fed 'beyond angry' with force over spit guard 'u-turn'

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Chairman described it as "political interference" in operational decisions.

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Sarah Johnson reacted furiously to the announcement

The chairman of Gloucestershire Police Federation is “beyond angry” with the force after it announced it would not “rush in” to using spit guards.

Sarah Johnson accused Gloucestershire Police, as well as the police and crime commissioner, of “interfering in operational policing decisions” following the announcement on Wednesday.

Ms Johnson claimed the force breached an agreement already in place when Gloucestershire Police and Crime Commissioner Martin Surl intervened.

She said: “Protecting police officers from being spat at is paramount. We had an agreement in place in force to begin a trial of spit guards in custody suites. And now this had been put on hold following an intervention by PCC Martin Surl.

“Our members will rightly be asking why he is getting involved in operational policing decisions, which are a matter for the Chief Constable.

“Police officers will also be left feeling that the Police and Crime Commissioner and the force are basically saying it is ok for people to spit at them.”

Ms Johnson said she would be taking the matter up urgently with both the force and the office of the PCC as she believes every officer in Gloucestershire should have one.

She continued: “Spitting at a police officer is horrible but then there is also the potential that – should the spit go in their mouths – there will be sometimes up to a six month programme whereby officers have to be tested and maybe take drugs to make sure that they haven’t contracted a contagious disease.

“This means that the officers may not be able to be intimate with their family, might not be able to cuddle their children or might not be able to visit ill relatives, so it’s not only the impact on that day, it’s for a long time thereafter.

“A lot of stress and worry comes with that.”

PCC Surl insists he is “yet to be convinced” spit guards are an effective solution.

He said: “I know from personal experience that any attack on officers carrying out their duties is completely unacceptable, and that extra protection is sometimes necessary. But the use of spit guards has caused controversy in other parts of the country with claims they breach suspects’ rights and could even be dangerous.

“The chief constable and I are in total agreement that the safety of our staff is paramount, but I am yet to be convinced that spit guards are the answer.

“This is a highly emotive issue that should not be rushed into without public engagement and any other consultation that may be appropriate.”

More than half of Police Federation members across the country are in favour of spit guards, as is the current Home Secretary Amber Rudd.

Gloucestershire Chief Constable Rod Hansen says “pause for thought” is the ideal path forward.

He said: “This is an issue that divides opinion even within the service. Some regard them as a necessary and an essential restraint; others see them as impractical and maybe even inflammatory.

“We already have the power to use reasonable force against citizens when it is deemed appropriate.  If we can find a solution that suits everyone, including my officers and staff as well as for suspects, all of whom I have a duty of care towards, then further pause for thought is the right course to take”.

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