National security wrap

The Beat 

Talk to the camera (respectfully)

Police using body cameras generate data, and lots of it. But until this week there’s never been a systematic effort to mine through it. Now, linguists, psychologists and computer scientists from Stanford have joined forces to analyse 183 hours of audio recorded by police cameras.

Researchers looked at the language that some 245 Oakland police officers used during 981 traffic stops in April 2014. Alarmingly, when black and white residents’ experiences were compared, and after the transcripts were parsed to get at the underlying sentiment, black drivers were 61% more likely to hear phrases scored as least respectful—like ‘dude’ or ‘hands on the wheel.’ White drivers were 57% more likely to hear the phrases independently judged most respectful.

The subtle difference is particularly troubling given researchers could statistically control for factors, like severity of offence, that might affect the nature of the stop. The approach glosses over some circumstantial context, however, and future studies might look to analyse officers’ language, along with that of the driver. But it’s a big testament to police transparency, and hopefully this kind of data can help to improve police-community relations going forward.

Bite marks and gritted teeth

Scientists and watchdogs are clenching their jaws in frustration after the US National Commission of Forensic Science was stood down earlier this year by order of the new administration. Undark eulogises missed opportunities that promised to put the “science” back into forensic science.

 CT Scan

Islamification of radicalism vs. radicalisation of Islam

For a unique perspective on what drives some young Europeans to violent, jihad-inspired ideologies, check out Haaretz’s article from one of France’s leading veteran experts on Islamic terrorism, Olivier Roy. Roy argues that ‘it’s not Islam’; rather, it’s a lack of connection with one’s country of origin, combined with a failure to integrate into Western societies. Young, second-generation European migrants are subject to a ‘process of deculturation’ that leaves them ignorant of, and detached from, both the European society and the one of their family’s origins. The result, Roy argues, is a dangerous lack of identity, creating a vacuum in which ‘violent extremism thrives’.

Along similar lines, an eye-opening piece from Vice argues that because many attackers use the rhetoric of religion to justify their attacks—for instance, shouting ‘this is for Allah’ pre-attack—focus is shifted to the role of Islam in ‘driving’ such attacks. Moreover, with groups like IS increasingly claiming responsibility for any and all attacks, it’s easy to forget that the desire on the part of attackers to murder and/or commit suicide often precedes their exposure to the jihadist ideology.


Thai military enforces border security

Military enforcement of border security is on the rise in Southeast Asia. The Bangkok Post revealed last weekend that the Thai military has been patrolling its border with Malaysia since 12 May. That’s in response to the recent revelation that various IS-linked individuals and militants arrested in Malaysia over the last six months had been smuggling weapons from Thailand, suggesting possible cooperation between Southern Thai insurgents and IS. The patrols are specifically aimed at preventing the smuggling of ammunition and explosives, illegal insurgent crossings and enhancing intelligence operations.

Regional detector dogs

Did you know that Australia is a ‘renowned’ source of detector dogs? Nine Australian-bred dogs and their handlers are the latest batch to graduate from New Zealand’s Police Dog Training Centre to support customs operations in New Zealand and Fiji. Three dogs will be deployed to Wellington and Christchurch, and six to Fiji as part of the Fiji Detector Dog Project under New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Pacific Security Fund. Trained to sniff out drugs, cash and firearms, the dogs will be positioned at Fiji’s borders and in the community to prevent criminals from using the island as a transit point in smuggling operations throughout the Pacific. 

First Responder

Nigeria storm-lashed

Powerful sand and rain storms have affected over 4,300 people and destroyed 1,000 homes in Nigeria’s Borno state. The region’s at the centre of the Boko Haram conflict and home to thousands of people displaced by the violence. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) confirmed eight of the 44 refugee camps sustained damage. As Nigeria’s rainy season has just begun, IOM has recommended shelters be reinforced and a response plan implemented for temporary shelter and 24-hour health personnel availability.

Pack your INCH bags

The first Tactical and Survival Expo, took place in Madaluyong City in the Philippines from 1–4 June. Seminars and workshops were run on hand-to-hand combat, martial arts and survival nutrition. The expo was presented by the Philippines’ leading arms manufacturer, Armscor Global Defense, with a view to increasing awareness in the public about general security issues and prepare people for myriad disaster situations, including natural disasters, public disorders, home invasions, and political upheavals. Attendees were told that in the event of the ‘Big One’ they’d need an ‘I’m Never Coming Home’, or INCH, bag—a large survival kit to keep you alive for several days. 

Dial 000

And lastly, The Canberra Times relates some of the more curious reasons people call triple zero—I recommend the one about Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce!