One of London’s most senior police scrutineers has warned that consulting on whether to issue Metropolitan Police officers with spit guards would be a breach of the force’s duty to protect them from harm.
The guards, which are already used by 18 police forces, cover a detainee’s face making it impossible to bite officers and thereby substantially reduce the risk of infection with hepatitis and other diseases.
The Met had been due to start trials in which use would be restricted to custody suites. However these trials were blocked by Mayor Sadiq Khan following the media’s reporting of them.
Mr Khan has said a public consultation will now be held before the trials can resume.
Today members of the London Assembly’s police and crime committee heard that the Mayor only became aware of the trials after the Met confirmed their plans in a press release, despite the issue being discussed on five separate occasions at Met management forums for which papers are routinely published online.
Some AMs suggested the revelation showed that Khan’s policing deputy, Sophie Linden was “not on top” of her brief, with Conservative AM Tony Arbour accusing the deputy mayor of “negligence”.
There was further criticism from Labour AM Jennette Arnold who told Linden the planned consultation “cannot be about whether you use them” but should instead be about how their use is recorded and monitored.
Arnold, one of the committee’s longest serving members and a former nurse, said she knew from first hand experience of treating patients with hepatitis just how dangerous the disease was and said protecting officers was a basic “health and safety” duty from which senior officers and political leaders could not resile.
Arnold added she was “amazed” the guards aren’t already in use and said the consultation needs “to be done with haste” to ensure officers have the protection they need.