Local Police Use of Spit Mask Comes Under Fire

Sacramento is once again in the spotlight for an incident with a citizen. Fresh off the unrest from the officer-involved shooting deaths of Joseph Mann, and Stephon Clark, the media and the ever-circling attorneys feeding on the seeds of racial unrest, were quick to condemn the officers for excessive force. This time the citizen in question was a twelve year old boy. A television news report focused on the officers using what’s commonly referred to as a “spit mask,” a mesh bag, and placing it over the young man’s head.

The young man was detained by a security guard at a local strip mall. The security guard apparently chased the young man who had been suspected of panhandling and begging customers for money according to video recordings. The police arrived and things escalated with the young man. His tantrum was spurred on by bystanders who felt it was their mission to film the action almost to the point of interfering with the officers.

The young man refused to identify himself, tried to push away from the officers and then when he was being led to the police car, he spat in the face one of the officers three times and threatened to do it again while cursing the officer and calling her a racist bitch. He kicked the car and refused to go in the back seat while screaming at the officers.

After threatening to spit again, the officers placed a “spit mask” over the boy’s head. This is not a plastic bag, or anything that causes the wearer to suffocate. It’s more akin to a mosquito net, and it prevents spitting on officers as they carry out their duties. I’ve seen it used dozens of times in custodial settings. Still, the young man demanded to be let go, as if he’d done nothing wrong by spitting on and resisting the officers.

I don’t know what he actually did near the fast food restaurant, if anything. The bystanders and the family attorney claim the police should have never been called. Fact is they were called and the young man decided to act like a fool, cursing, spitting and kicking, and assaulting the arresting officer. You can’t use race as an excuse to spit on cops, or anyone else. Race isn’t a reason to throw common sense out the window. He wasn’t placed in a “spit mask” because he was black, he got the mask because of his behavior.

When it was all said and done, the young man calmed down and was issued a citation. He still claimed he was the victim.

Now the family’s attorney is making the usual excessive force overtures, and claimed that they had no reason to put a bag over the child’s head other than to demean and degrade the child.  He obviously hasn’t watched to body cam footage. The reason that “spit mask” went on was because his client repeatedly spit on an officer and threatened to do it again.

Law enforcement isn’t perfect and we know that agencies have had issues where the force used was disproportionate to the incident. Sacramento has been under fire for recent shootings and has been the target of protest and investigation. This should not be lumped in with those tragic events. I watched all the body cam footage and saw nothing that gave me pause when officers deployed the “spit mask” on their subject. The young man put himself in that position and to try and blame law enforcement for his behavior isn’t reasonable. They have a hard enough job without lawyers and advocacy groups ginning up conflict for personal gain.

When his mom shows up she refuses to give her name and identification to the officer to verify that she is in fact, the boy’s mother. Makes you wonder where the son learned that behavior. We do have a racial divide in our communities, and a reaction like this is not the way to address those more legitimate concerns.

That’s my take on the use of a “spit mask” in this case. It deescalated the situation before the young man’s behavior got someone hurt.

Make up your own mind. Here is the Sacramento Police Department body cam footage of the event.


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  1. Barton C Powell · · Reply

    They clearly acted appropriately in placing the spit mask on him. He is lucky that his behavior didn’t cause further action to be taken. If he was simply cited and released he got off way lucky. Race did not cause the police’s use of force, his behavior did.

    1. I’m afraid we’re going to be seeing this kid again unless his behavior takes a different course.

  2. Sad. Just sad all around.

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