Earlier this week loud cheers greeted the news of the Metropolitan Police Service's decision to start a trial of spit hoods. Alas those cheers were short lived, only to be replaced by anger when just 24 hours later it was announced the trial was to be abandoned following an intervention by City Hall. This intervention in all likelihood was fuelled by objections from those who never have been or are never likely to be bitten or spat at by a criminal; never likely to suffer the worry and distress of months of medical tests; never likely to have their life or their family's life put on hold waiting to see if they have contracted a life changing or life shortening illness.
This intervention is wrong on so many levels. Firstly, the issuing of spit hoods to protect police officers from contagious diseases must be an operational matter; a matter solely for chief officers not politicians. The Mayor of London is entitled to his view, but it should be just that - his view. If the Mayor of London needs senior officers to explain why spit hoods are necessary then I invite him to go and meet frontline police officers. Mr Mayor, they'll tell you why spit hoods are necessary.
Secondly, this U-turn on spit hoods exemplifies precisely what is wrong with this country. Let's look after spitting, biting criminals before we look after those charged with maintaining law and order; those charged with protecting society. Let's not deal with the inhumanity of one human being biting or spitting at another human being. Let's not deal with the inhumanity of one human being trying to infect another human being with a contagious disease. No, let's focus on the alleged inhumanity of spit hoods.
Thirdly, this intervention by City Hall only serves to fuel the fashion for people not taking responsibility for their own actions. The Mayor of London should be telling everyone that biting and spitting at police officers (indeed anyone) is wholly abhorrent and will not be tolerated. Furthermore, if you engage in such activity then you are the author of your own destiny; if you don't bite and spit then you won't get to wear the spit hood. It's really that simple.
Finally, the intervention by City Hall feeds into the apparent popular narrative the police are invariably in the wrong; the police can't be trusted. It's a narrative that puts the law breaker before the law enforcer. This narrative sends a hugely detrimental message to police officers up and down the country; men and women who join to do the right thing, protect the public and make a positive difference to people's lives. Their reward for this dedication to public service seems to be a lack of support by "the establishment" in all its forms.
I am often told there is a silent majority who support policing. I am sure there is. Policing needs to believe there is to avoid an unhealthy siege mentality. However, it is time for the silent majority to find its voice. If it doesn't and society continues to allow those with the sharpest elbows and loudest voices to have a disproportionate influence, then I truly fear for the future. I sincerely hope the silent majority find their voice before it is too late.
Kent Police Federation