Spit guards should be “in the pocket of every single police officer”, a senior UK force figure has said after reports of people spitting and coughing in the faces of emergency workers.
Across the UK, dozens have been sentenced to weeks or months in jail for the worrying rise in these types of assaults on officers in recent weeks.
Sergeant Simon Kempton, the operational lead for Covid-19 at the Police Federation, told the Home Affairs Select Committee this afternoon that spit guards should be issued to stop the virus being “weaponsised”.
He said: “Now more than ever, while Covid-19 is being weaponized, we need those spit guards in the pocket of every single police officer, not just in custody, on the street as well.”
Thank you to our first panel. Our second panel is now live. We're hearing from Chief Constables Garry Forsyth @bedspolice Peter Goodman @DerbysPolice John Robins @WestYorksPolice and Lisa Winward @NYorksPolice
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Sgt Kempton also told MPs of his fear that the lockdown could see a rise in online grooming.
He said: “More and more of our young people are inside on their different devices and I think one thing that policing has to keep across is the increased potential for them to be subject to online grooming and all sorts of offences.
“While it’s absolutely right that we put our efforts and resources go into enforcing regulations and protecting the NHS, at the same time, the balancing act for chief officers, is to make sure we don’t take our eye off these balls as well.
“This is because somewhere somebody will take advantage of the situation for their own ends.”
The evidence session, which was carried out remotely, also offered MPs the opportunity to grill senior officers over the use of their powers.
Now more than ever, while Covid-19 is being weaponized, we need those spit guards in the pocket of every single police officer, not just in custody, on the street as well.”
In recent weeks forces have come in for criticism for being “overzealous” in enforcing social distancing.
Chief Superintendent Paul Griffiths, president of the Police Superintendents’ Association of England and Wales, in response to questions said: “Enforcement is the last resort, this is about us trying to police a health issue through social distancing.
“We don’t want powers for power sake, that is not the way that we place our society.”
“But, you know, we can’t afford to for groups of people to meet in parks or on beaches, because this is how the disease spreads.
“So we just need to continue the communication strategy with the public, so they can have a thorough understanding of what they can and can’t do under the law.”