6 June 2023
The Northern Territory Police Association (NTPA) maintains the position that spit guards and emergency restraint chairs are crucial protective options for our members against offenders who are spitting or attempting to spit, or self-harming.
NTPA President Nathan Finn says it’s simple: if offenders don’t want a spit guard applied, don’t spit at or towards our officers, or bite.
“We recognise the use of spit guards is a contentious issue, but the protection of our members should be a priority for Government – which has an obligation to ensure our members have a safe working environment, to reduce the risk of any such injuries which is exposed to them.
“Spit guards provide essential protection against exposure to infectious diseases and other bodily fluids such as phlegm or blood. The use of spit guards is rare and only considered when all other options have been exhausted when dealing with offenders who spit, or attempt to spit, or exhibit aggressive behaviour. Its use is subject to strict guidelines and operational policies and procedures.
“A procedural ban on the use of spit guards on youth offenders is sufficient, however, the NTPA maintains the position that these protective options should be available to police for both youth and adult offenders.
“Being spat on is not only a physical assault, but it also poses a serious health risk. Our members are exposed to dangerous communicable diseases when they are spat on, which can lead to long periods of testing and treatment, causing undue stress and trauma for officers and their families.
“Proposed Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for police to utilise, such as a full-face shield are impractical at best and would greatly restrict the ability of our members to perform their duties effectively when a person in custody is violent or otherwise resisting police. PPE can impair a police officer’s situational awareness and ability to access and use Use of Force options in a confrontational violent situation.
“The onus should be on offenders not to initiate what is a disgusting and dangerous assault.
“With regard to emergency restraint chairs; it is the NTPA’s view that this is an important piece of equipment for the safety of our members, and the safety of persons within the custody of police. The alternative is ground stabilisation, or restraint to a bed as used in medical facilities – which means a greater risk of asphyxiation – or the removal of items that could be used to self-harm (such as clothing) and the offender being placed in a padded cell.
“If a person is violent and/or self-harming, police have a legal obligation to keep themselves and others safe. This responsibility is consistent with the duty of care requirements provided under section 28 of the NT Work Health and Safety Act 2011.
“There should be a greater emphasis placed on ensuring youths do not come into contact with police or the youth justice system, rather than removing essential protective equipment for police when violent offenders attack them.
“There should be more protections for our members, not less. Our members have told us the banning of spit guards is nothing more than political pandering to a portion of the community that places a higher value on the rights of criminals over the protection of our hard-working and committed police officers. We hope Government is listening,” said Mr Finn.
Please direct all media enquiries to NTPA Communications Officer, Kyrrie Blenkinsop +61 (0) 499 017 654 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The Northern Territory Police Association (NTPA) is the industrial voice of all members of the Northern Territory Police Force. Read more via www.ntpa.com.au or join us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/NTPoliceAssociation