In a controversial new tactic, the Metropolitan Police have been given permission to cover suspects’ heads with a bag called a spit hood from October this year.
As if current restraint techniques weren’t dangerous or effective enough, the Five-O’s new license to cover our heads with a mesh sack is sending shivers down a lot of people’s spines.
The restraining device, which is classed as ‘use of force’, is to be trialled at 32 custody suites across the capital. They are not yet being used on the streets so as not to incense the public, RT reports.
The Guardian have reported that Scotland Yard has agreed to temporarily halt the plans due to concerns from human rights organisations.
This shocking video has surfaced of the police using a spit hood on a young black man:
That looks pretty unsettling, but the argument from Scotland Yard is that the hoods protect officers from disease, spitting and biting.
Human rights groups Amnesty, Liberty, and Inquest have all voiced serious concerns about the new spit guards.
Martha Spurrier, director of Liberty, said:
A spit hood is a primitive, cruel and degrading tool that inspires fear and anguish. Police have the power to use force against citizens when they have to – using handcuffs, arm restraints, leg restraints, pepper spray, batons.
The suggestion that officers need to be able to cover people’s faces and heads is as farfetched as it is frightening. Spit hoods belong in horror stories, not on the streets of a civilised society – we urge the Met Police to think again.
The British Transport Police have used spit hoods 151 times since introducing them in June 2014, the BBC reports, and are under investigation over an incident in July.
Shamik Dutta, the solicitor representing the man who had the hood put on his head in that incident, said:
The application of a spit hood can be deeply distressing and humiliating, causing panic in the detained person.
By obscuring someone’s face, the use of a spit hood can prevent witnesses, including police officers, from quickly identifying whether a person is suffering breathing difficulties, is choking or has suffered some other serious facial or head injury requiring immediate medical attention to avoid life-threatening consequences.
A Met spokeswoman said officers would be trained to ensure use was proportionate, but maintained that the hoods were needed for the safety of police officers.
Kevin Blowe, from the Network for Police Monitoring (Netpol), argued that all new pieces of kit are justified on the grounds of officer safety.
He said to RT:
Yet again, there is no regard to the long history of violently misusing equipment against people with mental health issues and those who are routinely targeted by the police, particularly young people from minority communities.
This is how very vulnerable people have died in police custody in the past. It happened with the introduction of CS spray, positional restraint techniques and Tasers. Our concern is that it’s only a matter of time before spit hoods are a contributor to another grieving family’s search for answers about the death of a loved one.