Garda supervisors want spit hoods retained after coronavirus

Nine-out-of-ten frontline garda supervisors want spit hoods to be retained as part of gardaí’s protective equipment once the Covid-19 regulations have expired.
Garda supervisors want spit hoods retained after coronavirus
Civil rights groups want the use of spit hoods to end.	 Picture: PA
Civil rights groups want the use of spit hoods to end. Picture: PA

Nine-out-of-ten frontline garda supervisors want spit hoods to be retained as part of gardaí’s protective equipment once the Covid-19 regulations have expired.

The headcovers, which protect officers from being spat or coughed at, are due for review in September.

Civil rights groups have opposed them - but Garda Commissioner Drew Harris defended their use during the crisis in protecting members from the “reprehensible” attacks.

There have been 121 spitting or coughing attacks on gardaí since Covid-19 emergency regulations came in on April 8 – and spit guards have been used 82 times.

A survey by the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors, comprising just over half of its 2,285 members, also found:

  • 92% reported “high levels of positive interactions” with the public to how they and gardaí under their supervision policed Covid-19;
  • 67% felt the regulations were “not adequately explained” by Garda Management at the start;
  • 94% said easing of restrictions made it more difficult to enforce regulations;
  • More than two-thirds said there was inadequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for members at the start of the restrictions.
  • Six-in-ten felt that wearing face masks and keeping two metres apart from people while trying to interact with them was not possible.

On the issue of spit guards:

  • 87% welcomed the introduction of spit hoods as an additional layer of PPE to protect members under their supervision from deliberate coughing and spitting;
  • 86% said spit hoods should be retained as an additional layer of PPE after the conclusion of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Policing Authority Chairman Bob Collins has previously said he was “somewhat reassured” by indications from the Commissioner that use of spit hoods would be strictly limited to the current crisis.

Amnesty and the Irish Council for Civil Liberties have called for the use of spit guards to be stopped.

The AGSI survey found that most supervisors backed the 12-hour roster brought in to police the crisis and eight-out-of-ten said it and extra resources allowed for a more community-focused policing approach.

AGSI General Secretary Antoinette Cunningham said there was an "unacceptable delay" in issuing guidance to members.

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