A 20-year-old man is due to appear in Hamilton District Court today after allegedly spitting at police following an incident at a supermarket.

Police were called to a central Hamilton supermarket yesterday about 11.30am as the man was suspected of shoplifting.

Police say that after arresting the man he tried to flee and while being detained he spat at officers numerous times.

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As a result of the incident the man has been charged with common assault, escapes custody, theft and wilful damage.

"The health and safety of officers is a priority for police and we have a range of measures in place to protect our people, however given the frontline nature of police work there are risks," Inspector Andrew Mortimore, Acting Waikato District Commander, said.

"Behaviour where people spit at members of the community including police officers will not be tolerated.

"While rare, such behaviour is highly concerning and potentially extremely dangerous."

The officers involved in the incident yesterday have received support and medical advice but have not had to go into self-isolation.

"While we recognise these are challenging times and the current situation may be causing stress and uncertainty for many, that does not excuse criminal behaviour which puts the community at risk," Mortimore said.

President of the NZ Police Association Chris Cahill said the problem predated the alert level 4 lockdown.

"It is already far too common. We get reports weekly, at times on a bad week almost daily of people being spat at."

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Clearly in light of the current environment that behaviour was worse and highly risky, he said.

"It's something our officers shouldn't have to put up with. It's truly disgusting behaviour."

It was pleasing to see an offender sentenced to three months' imprisonment last week, as that recognised the change in the seriousness of the offence, Cahill said.

"We'd like to see that sets the benchmark for other offenders, that they can expect the same result."

Cahill said there had been a heightened police presence around supermarkets during the alert level 4 period.

More than 5000 reassurance patrols and checks have occurred throughout communities across New Zealand.

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This probably influenced the "one or two idiots out there who aren't willing to wait in the line or follow the rules", Cahill said.

"The general public have been really good around supermarkets.

"I think they recognise the service that the supermarkets, and particularly the employees working there, are offering so they have responded pretty well."

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website