Hoods used to protect police from biting and spitting by suspects are banned: ‘No good reason to put a bag over someone’s head’
- Spit hoods used in watchhouses to protect Queensland police are banned
- Increased PPE, protective screens and training will be set up to protect officers
- Acting Deputy Commissioner Mark Wheeler said it ‘was not an easy decision’
Queensland Police has banned ‘spit hoods’ that prevent officers from being bitten or spat at in watchhouses.
The ban, that the came into force on Friday, was welcomed by civil liberties groups, who said there was ‘no good reason to put a bag over someone’s head’.
Increased PPE, protective screens, more training and other techniques will instead be used to prevent offenders from biting or spitting on officers.
Increased PPE, protective screens, more 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, that have a band around the neck, are designed to restrain offenders and have been rarely used in watchhouse custody.
The hoods were used on 138 occasions between 2015 and 2022, which was 0.04 per cent of all people in police custody during that period.
The restraining method, introduced in Queensland in 2009, could only be used by trained staff and was monitored by senior officers.
But police reviewed their sue after the Queensland Human Rights Commissioner and the Queensland Family and Children’s Commission raised the issue.
Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll said the decisionwas made after consultation with the state’s police union, other policing jurisdictions, and a range of government agencies.
Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll (pictured) said police recognise there are community concerns around the use of the safety hoods in police watchhouses
‘We recognise there are community concerns around the application of safety hoods in police watchhouses and we undertook an extensive review of the issue before formally discontinuing their use,’ she said.
‘The QPS is committed to enhancing our practices to ensure we are delivering high quality policing services to the community we proudly serve.’
The ban was also influenced by the increased availability of PPE for officers and watchhouse staff, plus the option 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 prevent spitting and biting.
‘Use of force is always based on the principle you use the least amount of force as necessary – we resolve a situation generally through communication,’ he said.
‘But it may be necessary to restrain someone who may be spitting directly in your face… you turn their face away from you so the spit is not coming in your direction.’
The hoods were used on 138 occasions between 2015 and 2022, which is 0.04 per cent 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 spit hoods.
‘Despite the availability of clear alternatives like PPE, spit hoods have been used in prisons and watchhouses, 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 juveniles.
South Australia banned the hoods in 2021, but Western Australian police still use them on adults on some occasions.