National security wrap

The beat

Post-Brexit contingency plan leaked

A leaked document from the UK’s National Police Coordination Centre has revealed that police are drafting plans to cope with possible riots and an increase in crime in the wake of Brexit. A ‘no-deal’ withdrawal from the EU may result in shortages of essential goods, foods and medicine in the UK, potentially prompting civil unrest. One option that’s being floated is providing police with ‘military assistance’ and not letting officers take leave.

Case-dropping on the rise in London

Figures show London’s Metropolitan Police are dropping more cases within the first 24 hours of reporting, including sexual assaults and arson. During screening, Met Police conduct an initial assessment to decide which cases to stop investigating in an attempt to ensure the best allocation of resources. In 2017, at least 34,000 cases were screened out, almost three times the number dropped in 2016 (13,019), and 2018 is on track to be higher. The rising numbers could be related to funding problems.

Law enforcement in schools

Two weeks ago, a school resource officer in Ohio used her taser near a sleeping student to wake him up after previous efforts failed. This week she was placed on leave. The student wasn’t hurt in the incident. SROs are law enforcement officers stationed in schools to protect students and act as mentors and informal counsellors. Several states are considering increasing the number of SROs, but there are fears that sudden increases will jeopardise training standards.

CT scan

WA ramps up counterterror plans

WA police are planning to enhance their counterterrorism efforts by expanding the use of phone emergency alert systems—used to warn people about natural disasters—to include terrorist attacks. This comes after calls from the state’s attorney-general, John Quigley, to reform the Bail Act 1982 to restrict bail and parole for people who have shown support for, or have links to, terrorist activity. With WA police now having greater ‘shoot-to-kill’ powers, police commissioner Chris Dawson has said he wants plans to arm 120 officers with AR-15 semi-automatic rifles completed this month.

Officer’s son sentenced over terror plot

A police captain’s son has been sentenced to 20 years in a US federal prison after plotting a series of terror attacks that were allegedly inspired by Islamic State. Alexander Ciccolo is the son of Boston police captain Robert Ciccolo, who reportedly alerted the FBI to his son’s plot to attack locations in New Mexico. According to evidence found at Ciccolo’s apartment, he planned to bomb several crowded places using Molotov cocktails filled with ‘shredded Styrofoam and motor oil’.

US increases drone strikes from Africa

Last week, we wrote about the US’s efforts to scale back its war on terror in Africa. Though American troop numbers are being cut, the US has expanded the use of drones and given the CIA greater powers to conduct secret drone strikes against al-Qaeda and Islamic State from a newly expanded base in the the Sahara in northeastern Niger.


Toxic gases close Ukraine border

Ukraine has closed all but one checkpoint on its border with the Russian-annexed Crimean peninsula due to health concerns over toxic emissions. Preliminary assessments suggest the chemical contamination has come from a Crimean titanium plant. Ukrainian citizens in Crimea continue to seek refuge in Ukraine, and medical teams report they have examined more than 800 affected people and admitted 37 of the 61 border guards who sought medical assistance to hospital.

Spain looks to soften border fence

Migrants attempting to access European territory through the Spanish enclaves of Melilla and Ceuta in North Africa face a six-metre, triple-layer fence topped with razor wire—a barrier Spain’s government is looking to replace with something ‘less bloody’. The country’s new socialist administration has stated that the control of migratory flows through its ports cannot come at the expense of basic human rights. Spain has seen a stark increase in migrant arrivals this year, receiving twice the numbers of Greece and six times more than Italy.

Rapid reconciliation of bitter enemies

Ethiopia and Eritrea have reopened two crossings and are withdrawing troops from their shared border for the first time in 20 years. The border was shut in 1998 following a two-year conflict that stalled development and trade and undermined regional security. The critical turning point follows the Ethiopian president’s acceptance of a 2002 court ruling to return contested territory to Eritrea and the restoration of formal diplomatic relations.

First responder

Mass evacuations ahead of Hurricane Florence

Officials in the US states of North and South Carolina have issued evacuation warnings to over a million people living in coastal areas as category-3 Hurricane Florence is expected to make landfall late on Friday or early on Saturday US time. The UN says it’s unusual to see hurricanes as powerful as Florence so far north, and it’s not the only storm brewing. Hurricane Helene and Tropical Storms Isaac and Olivia are expected to affect the Caribbean, the northeast Atlantic and Hawaii, respectively. NASA has uploaded incredible footage of Florence taken from the International Space Station.

Death toll rises in Japan

The death toll from last week’s earthquake in the Japanese island of Hokkaido has risen to 42. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited the affected areas and has allocated US$4.9 million in relief funding. The government has deployed 40,000 personnel, including troops to aid the search-and-rescue effort. Relief measures are being hampered by power shortages, as the island’s biggest power plant was damaged in the earthquake.

Ice is back with a brand new infection

Nineteen people aboard an Emirates flight from Dubai to New York were struck by influenza last week. A hundred people reported feeling sick and were quarantined for medical screening at JFK airport. Vanilla Ice, who was on the flight, posted a video of the plane surrounded by ambulances, fire trucks and police vehicles.