More than 50 PSNI officers and staff have reported being spat at during the coronavirus pandemic.
In less than two months, 43 separate incidents involving 51 employees were recorded.
Mark Lindsay, chair of the Police Federation for Northern Ireland, said the figures were "appalling".
There have been numerous reports of officers being spat at in recent weeks.
Figures obtained by this newspaper show that from March 16 to May 14, a total of 48 police officers and three custody detention officers submitted 51 internal accident/incident reports.
More than one member of staff could be targeted in the one incident.
Four of these reports alleged that the person spitting was Covid-19 symptomatic, one that the person spitting was Covid-19 confirmed and four that the person spitting claimed to have Covid-19, but this was unconfirmed.
At the end of March the PSNI was criticised for being the last police service in the UK to implement the use of spit and bite guards to protect officers during the pandemic.
The guards are made of mesh and plastic and are placed over the head of a person threatening to spit at or bite officers.
The PSNI said spit and bite guard equipment was made available temporarily to dedicated Covid officers on March 16. It was later extended to those using cell vans as well as people working in custody suites.
The equipment has been used 17 times since it was introduced and "consideration" of the long term use of the guards is under way.
Mr Lindsay questioned why the guards are not standard issue for use outside of police stations.
He said: "No officer should be subjected to this deplorable and sickening type of assault.
"Fifty-one recorded instances of being spat at is a shameful catalogue. The risks to officer health are frightening.
"Contracting Covid-19 through contact with an arrested individual is a major worry. So too are the risks posed by individuals who have Hepatitis B and C or other communicable diseases."
"It is imperative officers are given every protection. For that reason, the Police Federation has led the call for the introduction of spit and bite guards to give maximum protection to officers. Several months have passed since we made the case and we are at a loss to understand why they haven't become standard issue," he added.
"Spit and bite guards are available in custody suites, but are not generally available outside stations. This leaves officers exposed and vulnerable and that is wholly unacceptable.
"If we were talking about any other profession within the public sector such as nurses, this would not be tolerated for one second."
Mr Lindsay said custodial sentences should "become the norm" for those found guilty of such "reprehensible actions".
Adding his condemnation, Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd said police officers and staff are playing a "vital role" during the pandemic.
"Incidents such as being spat or coughed on are despicable and this type of appalling behaviour should not and will not be tolerated," he said.
"No one deserves this sort of disgusting treatment when they are simply doing their job trying to protect lives and it is unacceptable that our officers or staff, or any frontline worker serving and protecting our communities, are subjected to being spat at or threatened.
"During this global health crisis, to ensure our officers and staff can continue to serve the public and keep people safe, we need to protect them.
"Spit and bite guard equipment has been made available to dedicated Covid officers and those using cell vans, as well as people working in custody suites.
"This decision has been supported by the Northern Ireland Policing Board. Use of this protective equipment will be videoed where possible and its use referred to the Police Ombudsman where appropriate.
"During this pandemic, we are doing everything we can to ensure personal protective equipment is available to officers, in particular, those handling people who we suspect may be infected with this virus.
"We will continue to make sure the right welfare system is in place for our officers and staff when they need it, and we will pursue offenders because it is important that they know that assaults against them, at any time, should never be accepted as 'just part of the job'."
In an additional response to Mr Lindsay's criticism, ACC Tim Mairs said: "The use of spit and bite guard equipment is a sensitive issue and I want to assure people that its use is in line with our absolute commitment to human rights.
"Consideration of the long term use of spit and bite guards is under way."