Spitting Feathers

I’m not an expert on Spit Hoods.

In fact, even as a serving officer, I was completely unaware of them until relatively recently.

If I’m honest – and this is very much a personal view – I think they look pretty alarming. And so do a lot of other people if the debate of the last couple of days is anything to go by.

I understand that. And I understand any desire on the part of the Mayor’s Office to seek a wider set of views.

But I also understand the strength of feeling expressed by many frontline officers about the issue.

I guess it’s important to try to understand what spit hoods are designed for – why on earth they might be required in the first place – and the exceptional circumstances in which they might be used.

I have been a police officer for twenty-four years and, in that time, have worked alongside some fairly extraordinary people.

I have served with officers who have disarmed gunmen and those wielding swords and knives. I have worked alongside a PC who, a couple of years before, had been shot and left for dead by a drug dealer.

I have cradled the head of an officer who had been mown down by a stolen car.

I have served with officers who have suffered broken bones and who could show you any number of scars.

I have been hospitalised – needing stitches in my mouth – following an assault on duty.

I have worked with officers who have been spat at and who have faced the risk (and the fear) of serious illness as a consequence. I was taken to St Thomas’s for emergency treatment on the day a drug addict’s used hypodermic went into the palm of my hand. I understand the horrible – and seemingly interminable – wait for test results.

Some have suggested that this violence and the associated trauma is ‘just a part of the job’.

But that can never be so.

Thousands of police officers get assaulted in this country every single year. Some pay the greatest price of all. And that is just wrong. Deeply wrong.

I have said often that policing is the best job in the world. And it is. But it is also one of the most challenging.

God forbid that we ever take for granted the risks that officers face on our behalf.

Which brings me back to spit hoods.

It strikes me that, in life, it is so much easier to declare what we are against than it is to explain what we are for.

Those protesting against the use of spit hoods are absolutely within their rights to do so. In fact, I would defend passionately their right to do so.

But, alongside the exercise of that right, those same people also have a responsibility: to suggest credible and viable alternatives – and, in doing so, make clear that spitting blood, phlegm and goodness knows what else at police officers has no place in a civilised society.

The police service in this country has any number of faults and flaws. But it is made up of some of the finest and bravest people you could ever hope to meet.

More so now than ever, they need and deserve our support.


13 thoughts on “Spitting Feathers

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  1. As a mother of a serving police officer, 10 years ago on completion of his training I was so proud of him. As a family we support him but over the last few years I have been concerned over his safety. I have seen him with receive a commendation for bravery, on the downside he has been spat on, kicked, sustained heavy bruising and covered with blood from people resisting arrest. A spit guard would be an aid to prevent infections, respect from the public would be even better.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I’m not a cop (nor someone who spits at cops!). I can’t see that it is a reasonable requirement of anyone, policeman or not, that they should be spat on and accept it as part of the job. A spit hood seems a sensible method of protection.

    I think that the problem is an emotional one in that the spit hood in the minds of some people is associated with the hoods they put prisoners in Abu Ghraib. I do think that people who object to the spit hoods should come up with a credible alternative (what, though?). You can’t just ban something with nothing to offer in its place. Or maybe the dissenters think that new police should have a sentence in their contract of employment which states that being spat on is a part of the job.

    While we are at it, why not ban handcuffs too? They restrict a person’s movement. And police helicopters, which give the police an unfair advantage over criminals trying to escape arrest. It makes you want to spit, doesn’t it……………

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Iam a retired officer, and I have always said, if you ask any member of the public what would happen should they be convicted of drinking and driving, they would answer lose their licence and a possible custodial sentence. Why do they come to this conclusion?
    Because government have implemented a mandatory disqualification for drink driving and financed an advertising campaign on both TV and radio and other media outlets.
    Why can’t they apply a mandatory custody dial sentence for police assaults of any description, and give it a similar advertising campaign so general public know without hesitation the sentence for police assaults

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I am a serving officer currently undertaking those long drawn out tests as a result of my work. Two of my colleagues are in the same position and also on my team. Our lives are all on hold for a while, not able to have a full relationship with our partners and conscious of all our contacts with family, friends, colleagues and those around us we deal with daily. Each of us has suffered severe side effects to taking the prescribed medication which I can tell you, is unpleasant. I have seen and been trained in the past in spit hoods and seen them working. They would not have been effective in my case but with my two colleagues would have prevented their situation. I do get how they look on, but they are not designed as a fashion accessory. They protect the public as much as police and carefully used and justified in weather case like any use of police equipment. I believe that properly used they are effective, cost efficient and keep the Nhs and police from unnecessary and very expensive treatments. More than that the permission to use these items sends a message of support to emergency services and may allow those staff better protection against life threatening illness. We should explain and justify their use to the public and perhaps allow their views to be heard on whether the public are ready to see them on our streets. I wonder who, if anyone, we are protecting with the current decision.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I totally support the use of spit hoods. A Ukrainian police officer died from TB recently after being spat at and TB infection rates in some parts of London are higher than Rwanda or Iraq. Officers are provided with other pieces of kit to protect them, spit hoods should also be available as PPE when needed.


  6. Most of the complainers seem to be the “undesirable underclass” of todays society or “human rights” activists. Of whom i doubt they have ever had to deal with the former.
    I fully endorse the use of spit hoods, but i am in fear of the government leaning towards these minority voices in a bid to garner votes. Listening to the minority, rather than the majority, and putting our brave forces in jeopardy yet again.
    If they are looking for an alternative to spit hoods, may i proffer a suggestion of Ball gags?, maybe in pink with a Hello Kitty motif?, maybe the added humiliation will make them think twice? 😉


  7. I wonder if spit hoods were a different colour, or had a colourful design, whether that would influence people’s opinions at all.
    Clearly this wouldn’t be enough to everyone but it might be enough to reduce people’s initial shock when seeing it.
    I can understand those who don’t understand its use could be somewhat shocked by it. It does look rather like something a kidnapper would use in a film.
    When used correctly I am in support of the distribution and use of these. Not only do they protect officers but also any members of the public within spitting distance.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Two points!
    1. When I joined the police in 1976 if you assaulted a police officer you went to prison!
    2. The one law that gets respect even from criminals is the breathalyser law because it has a minimum punishment ot 12 months disqualification. Bring in minimum sentences not maximum sentences. In one period when domestic burglaries were rife a judge stated that any person appearing before him for for a third time for domestic burglary would go to prison for two years! Guess what, the burglary rate dropped like a stone!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. ‘ morning sir

    I’m a custody officer, trained in spit hoods and in fact have already supervised the BTP in their operational use when they brought in a spitter and asked me if they could use theirs. It was a no brainer. Chummy had (ahem) ‘preloaded’ in the back of the van. The hood worked like a charm.

    To those who don’t like spit hoods, neither do I. But neither do I like directing colleagues to grab violent spitters (if they spit, they are likely to otherwise assault you too, folks, including kicking, biting and butting and …), taking ‘control’ of their head alongside two other colleagues, one on each arm, bending the poor misunderstood spitter double at the waist, and marching him/her direct to the cell where s/he is unceremoniously dumped onto the mattress (which I thoughtfully will have already placed on the floor) and getting them forcibly searched – and it will be a strip search if I have the grounds. Anything containing a lace, cord or belt will be seized as I will not have had any opportunity to conduct a meaningful risk assessment, and I am assuming responsibility for the welfare of a rather volatile person who I have probably never met before. Now *that*, spit hood detractors, is demeaning.

    An alternative is for police staff to be equipped with headguards, visors, and preferably overalls to enable us to kit up on the arrival of the dear misunderstood and generally hard done by spitters. This will require extra expense (in circumstances of reduced spending) and extra training. Another alternative would be for the very highest echelons of The Met to remind our detractors that spitting is an entirely voluntary act which we will not tolerate, that officers have been appropriately trained and that the training will be put into practice, as originally planned, at the start of October. That is how it will be, because, sadly, that is how it must be. But have they the cajones . . . ?


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