National security wrap

Image courtesy of Pixabay user mastrminda.


The Beat

Police as the first port of call

The official annual assessment of UK policing released this week highlights issues around mental health in the community. Police are increasingly relied on as the ‘first resort’ when dealing with people with mental illness, but this task is burdensome, and Sir Thomas Winsor, author of the report, warns that ‘police cannot continue to fill the gaps left by other agencies.’ It’s not a simple matter of under-resourced police, either—leading medical journal The BMJ points the finger at funding shortfalls affecting public services like the National Health Service, leaving a void that police are then called to fill.

There’s definite need for system-level change, but there’s also no doubt that efforts from local police offices will contribute. Perhaps they could draw inspiration from Canada, where Toronto police are rolling out a smartphone app that’ll help beat-cops connect people in crisis with the proper health services in their area.

Fake water seized in record haul

In an age of fake news, it’d be easy to disbelieve part of the latest INTERPOL–Europol haul—among the 26 million litres of counterfeit drink seized over the last four months, investigators noted the new trend of fake mineral water.

CT Scan

Understanding the nexus between mental illness and extremist violence

Running on from what’s been happening in the UK, a major counterterrorism push by NSW Police aims to identify mentally ill or vulnerable Australians who could become perpetrators of Islamic State-inspired violence, before they conduct a terrorist attack. The ‘Fixated Persons Investigations Unit’ includes 17 detectives and mental health specialists and is part of a broader initiative that seeks to focus police resources on better understanding the relationship between mental illness and terrorism. Whereas other programs draw on local intelligence to identify potential threats, the new unit will have access to a suspect’s medical history, a key recommendation of the Martin Place Siege review. NSW Police Commissioner, Mick Fuller hopes that in time, ‘the bias-crime and mental-health units will form a team to try and combat this new phenomenon’.

Countering vehicle terror

CT police in the UK have undergone specialist training to prepare them to ‘take out drivers’ who use vehicles as weapons. The initiative is a direct response to a wave of vehicular-related terror in Nice, Berlin and London. Marking a shift in previous policies, officers have been given high powered ammunition capable of penetrating armoured glass and will now have permission to shoot perpetrators behind the wheel if necessary.


Unearthing cattle tunnels

The Indian Border Force (BSF) has unearthed an 80 foot tunnel in a tea garden in northern West Bengal leading to Bangladesh. The BSF believes cattle smugglers had been digging the tunnel at night to evade detection. More and more Indian states are banning cattle exports, but the demand in Bangladesh remains high. This is the second tunnel connecting India and Bangladesh the BSF has discovered this year.

Mexico talks tough to Trump

Mexican foreign minister Luis Videgaray has unleashed ‘uncharacteristically tough talk’ concerning Donald Trump’s promise to build a border wall, calling the idea an ‘absolute waste of money’ and promising that Mexico ‘would not put one peso toward building it.’ Videgaray made his comments as Trump, seeking to avoid a government shutdown, has shown ‘flexibility’ regarding US government funding for the wall.

IKEA to provide jobs for Syrian refugees

IKEA has released plans to create employment opportunities for hundreds of Syrian refugees living in camps in Jordan. The push is part of a long-term plan to provide jobs for 200,000 disadvantaged people around the world through social entrepreneurship programs. The centres in Jordan will be built and equipped by IKEA, in conjunction with Jordan River Foundation, to produce a variety of woven products including rugs, cushions and bedspreads.

First Responder

Children in disasters

In the US, children as a specific population are not directly included in county emergency response plans, despite guidance offered from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Enter, Putnam County in New York state and the Resilient Children/Resilient Communities initiative. In partnership with Columbia University’s National Centre for Disaster Preparedness and Save the Children, a local coalition is planning for children’s protection before, during and after disasters, including ‘unprecedented cooperation’ from child-serving institutions. That’s a critical step forward in disaster planning: on any given day, 69 million US children are in school or care programs, yet 41% of parents don’t know where their children will be evacuated to during a disaster.

Malaria vaccine trial

The World Health Organization has announced a pilot program for the world’s first malaria vaccine to be rolled out in 2018. The program is scheduled to commence in parts of Ghana, Kenya and Malawi, which were selected due to their high incidence of malaria, availability of mosquito nets, and effective immunisation programs. The vaccine is designed to protect young children from malaria’s deadliest variant (caused by Plasmodium falciparum), and in combination with other current interventions has ‘the potential to save tens of thousands of lives in Africa’.

Underwater quake

Lastly, check out this off the (Richter) scale footage captured by a Filipino diver swimming over an earthquake.