SUSPECTS arrested by police may be made to wear controversial spit guards from next month.
The spit guards – labelled “primitive, cruel and degrading” by human rights group Liberty – will be used to protect officers from being spat at and bitten.
The mesh guards are put over a person’s head and have a reinforced section around the mouth and jaw to prevent the detainee from spitting or biting.
They wil initially be used in custody suites and from March other officers can use them when transporting prisoners.
South Yorkshire Police will become the 23rd out of the 43 forces in the UK to use the guards after it said staff was being spat at “once-a-day”.
Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts, said: “Spitting on or at an officer is an assault.
“Our staff should be able to come to work and do their job, protecting the public of South Yorkshire, without being assaulted.
“The introduction of spit guards will offer a safe and practical barrier to protect our officers.”
A police spokeswoman said the guards would only be used when a suspect has already spat or threatened to do so.
Mr Roberts added: “A spit guard will only be used when absolutely necessary, following verbal warnings where the detainee will be informed that a spit guard will be used should they continue with such behaviour.
“The safety and welfare of our officers is paramount in order to allow them to continue their role in protecting the public of South Yorkshire.
“Spit guards will ultimately allow us to minimise a certain level of risk to our staff in preventing them from being assaulted, as well as allowing officers to bring a situation under control quickly and safely when someone is spitting or biting.”