The "spit hoods" will allegedly be used to protect police from human saliva and other bodily fluids.
On the heels of concerns regarding the NYPD’s use of body bags to restrain “emotionally disturbed people,” the Metropolitan police of the UK have announced that they will begin bagging people’s heads during arrests as soon as this October. However, recent protests to the plan in Britain have caused Metropolitan police to consider delaying their “debut.”
The device is currently being used by the British Transport Police (BTP), whereas some other British police forces have banned their use. The specially-designed bags are known as spit hoods and are intended to be used to protect police from spit and other bodily fluids of “uncooperative individuals.” Apparently, spit is of great concern to UK police as the health and safety representative of the UK’s police union, Che Donald, was quoted by RT as saying:
“I’d rather take a punch to the face than be spat at.”
Donald continued by saying that he did not view the use of hoods as a use of force but rather as a health and safety issue for police officers.
Yet, spit hoods are not always safe for those being forced to wear them. In the US, the use of spit hoods has been linked to several deaths. There have been several cases where police pepper-sprayed individuals before placing them in spit hoods. The involuntary reactions to pepper spray often include spitting and mucous discharge as spray causes the breathing passages constrict.
In such cases, people must continue to breathe in pepper spray residue without proper ventilation which has resulted in serious injuries or death. Any person who is placed in a spit hood that is bleeding from the nose or face, a common occurrence in today’s world of militarized law enforcement, can have their breathing restricted since the blood can also coat the interior of the hood.
Once any type of bodily fluids, spit, blood, or otherwise, makes contact with the interior of the spit hood, the mesh fabric becomes clogged and ceases to allow the flow of air. This has resulted in several deaths as well as irreparable brain damage for some survivors. In addition, the hoods make it difficult to tell if the person wearing the hood is having difficulty breathing or is in distress as the hood obscures the view of their face.
However, this dangerous device is planned for common and widespread use when making arrests. As opposed to being a last resort, UK police have said the hoods will be used as a precautionary measure against people who might spit at them. The most well-known incident in the UK involving spit hoods was documented in a viral video showing a young black man being pinned down and having his head bagged by British transport police.
The young man in the video, I.K. Aihie, allegedly was arguing with his girlfriend in a train station when police arrived, supposedly becoming “aggressive” when police intervened in the argument. Aihie’s distressed girlfriend, Jessica McConkey, can be heard in the video decrying her boyfriend’s treatment by police. Aihie was later released without charge.
Even more concerning is the use of spit hoods on children. UK police in Sussex used a spit hood on an 11-year-old disabled girl who suffers from a rare neurological disorder similar to autism. She was detained and restrained, with the spit hood in place, for more than 60 hours. Using such a dehumanizing and degrading device on anyone, let alone a child, shows that spit hoods have no place in the hands of police.
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