Spit guards are set to be introduced across Cumbria to protect police from attack.

Police in Cumbria are being supplied with spit guards to offer extra protection from attack after officers carrying out their duties were spat at every three days on average last year.

120 incidents of officers being spat at were reported in 2018.

This type of attack can be distressing and impact badly on officers’ professional and private lives.

Saliva and blood in saliva can host a variety of diseases, bacteria and viruses.

Officers spat at in some circumstances may have to wait up to six months to make sure they have not been infected.

The loose-fitting hood made of a mesh fabric material is placed over the head of a suspect when there is a risk of spitting, with officers explaining to them the reasons for using one.

The guards do not restrict breathing and are designed to maintain clear visibility for the wearer.

They are being rolled out to all operational officers within the coming months.

Officers are being fully trained in their safe and proportionate use before being issued with them.

A spokesperson from Cumbria police confirmed they have spent £3,780 on an initial purchase of 2,000 spit guards.

They will be carried in the pouches in officers’ stab proof vests or in the pockets of cargo pants.

Chief Inspector Andy Wilkinson said: “Nobody goes to work to be assaulted and nobody acting in their professional role should be expected to tolerate being spat at.

“Spitting is a horrible type of assault.

“Cumbria Constabulary has a duty to help protect those on the frontline, who work hard for their communities and put themselves at risk, in the best way it can.

“I’m aware of officers who have also had blood spat at them.

“Spitting has serious potential health risks as bodily fluids can host a variety of diseases.

“Sometimes we have cases where officers have had fluids spat at them and the person has known they have infectious diseases and viruses.

“The impact of being spat at by someone who could be carrying an infectious disease can also not be underestimated.

“The national increase in violent crime shows the need for these guards to help keep our officers safe as they work hard to protect the public and solve and deter crime.”

Human rights groups across the UK, including Amnesty International and Liberty have condemned the use of spit guards by police.

Oliver Feeley-Sprague, Amnesty International’s UK Military, Security and Police Programme Director, said:

“Spit hoods can be a cruel and dangerous form of restraint.

“Some models of spit hood can restrict breathing and can cause extreme distress, especially when used for prolonged periods.

“We want to see the brakes put on their introduction whilst proper consultation is carried out and assurances are given about the models that can be used, the precise circumstances in which they should be used, and the full medical implications of putting these hoods over peoples’ heads.

“There needs to be detailed national guidance on the use of spit hoods, and we need proper training and monitoring of their use put in place.”