Queensland Police have banned ‘spithoods’ that prevent officers from being bitten or spat at in guardhouses.
The ban, which came into effect on Friday, was welcomed by civil liberties groups, who said there was “no good reason to put a bag over anyone’s head”.
Instead, more personal protective equipment, protective screens, more training and other techniques will be used to prevent offenders from biting or spitting on officers.
Increased PPE, protective screens, increased training and other techniques will be used to prevent offenders from biting or spitting on officers (pictured, a man being arrested wearing a spit hood)
The mesh fabric face coverings, which have a band around the neck, are designed to restrain offenders and have rarely been used in guardhouse custody.
The hoods were used 138 times between 2015 and 2022, which was 0.04 percent of all people in custody during that period.
Introduced in Queensland in 2009, the fixation method could only be used by trained personnel and was supervised by senior officers.
But police revised their charges after the Queensland Human Rights Commissioner and the Queensland Family and Children’s Commission raised the issue.
Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll said the decision was made after consultations with the state police union, other police jurisdictions and a range of government agencies.
Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll (pictured) said police recognize community concerns about the use of the safety hoods in police guardhouses.
“We recognize that there is concern in the community about the use of safety hoods in police guardhouses and we have investigated the matter extensively before formally phasing out their use,” she said.
“The QPS is committed to improving our practices to ensure we deliver quality policing to the community we are proud to serve.”
The ban was also affected by the increased availability of PPE for officers and sentry staff, plus the ability to segregate prisoners.
Acting Deputy Commissioner Mark Wheeler told media on Tuesday it was not an easy decision and said there were other ways to avoid spitting and biting.
“The use of force is always based on the principle of using as little force as possible – we generally resolve a situation through communication,” he said.
“But you may need to restrain someone who may be spitting directly in your face… you turn their face away from you so the spit doesn’t come your way.”
The hoods were used 138 times between 2015 and 2022, which is 0.04 percent of all people in police custody during that time (pictured, a Brisbane Watchhouse)
Greens Maiwar MP Michael Berkman welcomed the news and condemned the use of burp caps.
“Despite the availability of obvious alternatives such as PPE, burp caps have been used in prisons and guard houses, on children and adults,” he said.
“There’s no good reason to put a bag over someone’s head.”
Other police forces still use the hoods, including the ACT and Northern Territory, where they are used on both adults and minors.
South Australia banned the hoods in 2021, but Western Australian police still sometimes use them on adults.