Spit hood ban was not easy: Qld police

·2-min read

Queensland police admit banning the use of spit hoods in watch-houses was not easy, but it was the right decision for the community.

Use of the controversial restraint was effectively outlawed in Queensland watch-houses, but they can still be deployed in prisons and correction centres.

The hoods, which are made of fabric and placed over a detainee's head to stop them from spitting or biting, are considered a potential suffocation risk.

Acting Deputy Commissioner Mark Wheeler said the decision to discontinue the use of spit hoods followed extensive consultation with the Queensland Police Union, other jurisdictions and government agencies.

"This is an emotive and complex issue, as we also need to balance the safety of our watch staff, which is absolutely vital, and remains front of mind at all times," he said.

Mr Wheeler said being spat on was a stressful experience for police.

"I think everyone would agree spitting is an abhorrent act,'' he said.

"The ramifications of being exposed to bodily fluids is certainly a significant safety risk for our police.

"I've been spat on personally on a number of occasions. What happens from that perspective is you need to deal with the person and the situation.

"You then, of course, need to be decontaminated. You then undergo a disease test order, which could take some time to come back, to make sure that you haven't actually caught anything from that person, so it's a stressful situation."

Police will now be trained to use alternative protection against spitting as protective screens are installed in watch-houses across the state.

Mr Wheeler said the decision was in direct response to community concerns, but it was still a complex issue.

"This is not an easy decision, but we believe it's the right decision going forward," he said.

"It is about responding to concerns in the community and advocacy groups and aligning our practices with other jurisdictions."

However, spit hoods can still be used by Queensland corrective services officers, a practice that is also under review.

"Safety hoods are presently used as a last-resort preventative measure on prisoners that spit or bite, or attempt to spit at or bite officers," a corrective services spokesman said.

"Queensland Corrective Services is currently reviewing its processes and policies in relation to individuals who bite or spit at officers."

Spit hoods have been used across the state 138 times between 2015 and 2022, after being introduced in 2009.

The use of spit hoods and restraint chairs was described as inhumane by a 2017 royal commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory, which recommended their use be ended.

The NT government is also reportedly considering alternatives to using spit hoods on young people in police custody.

South Australia legislated a ban on spit hoods last November.