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Thames Valley Police officers issued with guards to stop suspects spitting at them

Face guards have been issued to Thames Valley Police officers to stop suspects spitting at them during arrests.

Since the start of this month, all front line officers are being issued with the spit guards to put on suspects after 306 officers in the force reported being spat at since April 1 last year.

Of those, 30 officers reported being exposed to the risk of contamination by a blood-borne virus as a result of the spit entering their mouth, nose, eyes or an open wound.

In these cases, TVP health and safety policies have required the officers to go to A&E as the bodily fluids can pose a risk of transmitting infectious diseases such as Hepatitis C.

The decision to introduce the guards was made jointly with Hampshire Police following a consultation and will be implemented after training has been carried out.

They are already used by a number of forces across the country and reduce the risk of diseases being transmitted.

It comes after guidance was issued by the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) last year that recommended 'forces give serious consideration to the issue of spit protection to all front line officers'.

Officers will be trained on how to safely and effectively use the spit guards and how to record incidents when they are used.

They will be required to monitor the suspect at all times when using the guard, and explain the reason why they are using it.

TVP said officers will need to 'maintain the dignity' of the suspect throughout the process and the guards will only be used on suspects who have already spat at officers or are though to be about to spit.

They will only be used when a suspect is handcuffed.

The guards are made of light, see-through and breathable material, which goes over a suspect's head and contains a plastic section to prevent them spitting.

David Hardcastle, Assistant Chief Constable Operations, Hampshire and Thames Valley lead on joint operations, said: “Spit guards are being introduced to help protect officers, other emergency services personnel and members of the public from this unacceptable and potentially dangerous behaviour.

“Our officers put themselves at risk every day and we want to ensure that they have the appropriate equipment to deal with the challenges they face.

“Everyone should be able to go to work without the possibility of being assaulted, including being spat at.

“The management team has listened to concerns raised by officers and the Police Federation, as well as taking on board recent recommendations from the National Police Chiefs’ Council and have taken the decision to provide them to all front line officers across the force.”

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