Dangers of Spit Hoods During Arrest

Here in California and across the nation, police use spit hoods to protect officers from being spit on or bitten when individuals engage in this behavior or threaten to, during arrests, transfers, or otherwise, as necessary. It is understandable that police want to avoid such attacks—but there are real concerns about the safety of these hoods.  

More About Spit Hoods

These hoods are really just mesh sacks that are placed over an offender’s head, sometimes made with material like what is used in medical masks on the bottom. They have an elastic ring around the opening. The mesh is made to allow wearers to breathe and see while containing any fluids that may be ejected.

These masks are viewed as a restraint, like cuffs or leg irons, and not a use of force. However, it seems that the use of hoods in conjunction with takedowns, strikes, pressure points and other uses of force can result in serious consequences.

Other factors that might make hoods more dangerous for wearers include having drugs in their system or suffering a mental health crisis that may have elevated a person’s heart rate and/or impacted breathing.

Study Conclusions

There is a fair amount of research showing that even the most heavyweight spit hoods out there are easier to breathe in than N95 masks. People who tested the masks say they could breathe even when artificial saliva was sprayed on the hoods to copy what a realistic situation might be like. 

But the studies were very different from real life in another way: they lacked the chaos and stress that go hand in hand with a typical arrest. Subjects in the study were not upset; they had not recently tried to escape by running from officers; they had not resisted arrest; and had not suffered tactical maneuvers at the hands of police to get them under control. In other words, they were likely not experiencing a rise in blood pressure, breathing, heart rate, and emotion.

In the Real World

What do people who have had to wear spit hoods outside of a controlled environment have to say about them? It is scary and makes one feel as though they could lose consciousness if things went too far. They also point out that saliva is thicker than the artificial material used in studies, and because arrestees in hoods may bleed or vomit, it makes breathing much tougher than studies imply.

Death Connected to the Use of Hoods

Over the course of ten years, more than thirty in-custody deaths occurred involving individuals who were wearing spit hoods. The hoods were used along with tactical moves or weapons, including stun guns, pepper spray, and hogties, aggravating breathing and heart issues. These facts bring to light the seriousness of decisions made by law enforcement as they arrest and restrain Americans every day.

The Defense You Deserve

The United States Constitution tells us that every American is entitled to a defense. At Boertje & Associates we take that mandate seriously.  To discuss your case with an experienced and dedicated criminal defense attorney, schedule a confidential consultation in our San Diego office today.

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