Five things to consider about protection against mass attacks

Mass attacks and assaults, whether driven by personal motives or ideology, evoke significant concern and fear. However, actions can often be taken to prevent, defend against and respond to such attacks. A recent research project funded by the U.S. National Institute of Justice analysed over 600 mass attack typologies, hundreds of articles and resources and dozens of expert interviews to ultimately develop the Mass Attacks Defense Toolkit, an online educational toolkit with different strategies, guidance and links to additional resources.

These are the five critical points derived from this research project:

1. Many of these massive attacks could be proactively prevented. Public reports prevented nearly two-thirds of the foiled plots emphasised in the Toolkit. Therefore, it is important to be alert to possible warning signs, such as the following:

  • Motivation: Inspired by previous attacks, desire to fulfil an extremist cause (especially in case of expulsion from a group/organisation for being too violent), desire to fulfil an extremist cause believing that there is no choice but to attack because of perceived danger or threat.
  • Preparation: Creates a written plan, attempts to recruit others, seeks information on how to maximise impact, coordinates with known violent extremists or travels frequently.
  • Exposure: The importance of detecting warning signs.

2. Communities need multidisciplinary teams to monitor and assess warning signs and determine what to do next. Each case needs a single responsible person to direct the necessary follow-up.

Threat assessment involves not only gauging the likelihood of an attack but also deciding the subsequent actions to be taken, many of which may fall beyond the purview of the criminal justice system.

3. Sufficient preparation minimizes casualties during the crucial initial phases of an attack before responders reach the scene. From a site security management perspective: Buffer zones need to be created, crowd movement opportunities need to be facilitated, it may be more appropriate to hide in a safe place rather than try to escape the scene safely and fight only when escape and hiding are not possible.

4. A successful collective reaction to a mass attack necessitates thorough planning and training that involves all individuals participating in the response. Effective responses to attacks include coordination between medical, police, fire and emergency services, as well as hospitals, victim service providers and site security managers.

For this to happen, leaders must provide adequate planning and training support and direction.

5. The recovery plan should include planning and training for potential consequences. Actions in the immediate aftermath of the attack include locating and arresting the attackers (where appropriate), investigating the perpetrators and possible conspirators, and providing access to mental health and emotional support, such as the establishment of family assistance and victim welfare centres.

Short-term actions include mental health and emotional support to victims and survivors, along with meetings and gatherings to discuss critical information about the response, as well as reviewing available resources for victims.

Long-term actions for relief groups include providing mental health and ongoing emotional support to survivors, overseeing the recovery process for victims, and engaging in recognition and learning, such as awards for acts of bravery, ceremonies for victims, and memorials and after-action commemoration and debriefing events.


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Investigation of police recruitment materials in the U.S.

U.S. law enforcement agencies aim to recruit qualified candidates, facing challenges when seeking to enhance demographic diversity among officers. In the case of women, they are shown to have significant competencies when it comes to effective policing, helping to restore confidence in the police or obtain high rates of case resolution, but with a lower use of force.

The goal of the study was to understand how police agencies use online recruitment materials to recruit female officers. The research assessed the prevalence of text, images, and videos featuring women, as well as individuals from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. It also examined content related to recruitment and the job itself, employing thematic analysis to comprehend the representation of police and diversity.

The police recruitment materials highlighted various characteristics that acted as deterrents for women considering applying to the police force. Police agencies do not provide consistent messages about diversity, resources for women, or support for work/life balance. In addition, differences were found between the police with the highest and lowest percentages of female presence, with inconsistent and often contradictory messages.

The document stresses that greater representation of women in law enforcement agency positions better reflects the social diversity of the communities they serve. Along these lines, the Task Force on 21st Century Policing recommended that agencies strive to create a workforce that contains a wide range of diversity based on race, gender, language, life experience and cultural background to improve understanding and effectiveness in dealing with society.

Despite the benefits previously identified, female representation in police organisations has lagged behind that of other historically underrepresented demographic groups. For example, although the representation of racial and ethnic minorities in the police reached 27% during 2013, women represented only 12%.

This research concludes that public recruitment material is quite deficient when it comes to recruiting women for the police. People make employment decisions based on imperfect information, as job applicants have limited knowledge of an organisation and a job until they are hired and fill the position. In the context of this study, jobseekers must infer what a job and an organisation are like from the limited information available to them through channels such as websites, social networks and personal contacts. Recruitment materials should have a stronger value for people with less pre-existing information about the organisation.

Although there is awareness of the obstacles to entering a police career, there is limited understanding of the content and messaging employed by police agencies on their websites and social media accounts. This study contributes to the existing literature by quantifying and describing current practices and providing recommendations for aligning current practices with evidence-based practices. To this end, they set out to answer the following questions:

1. How is diversity described in agency recruitment materials?

2. How do agencies address barriers and facilitate access to law enforcement careers?

3. What themes do police agencies use to describe a career in law enforcement?

4. How do the above characteristics differ between agencies that employ more or fewer women?

To answer these questions, a content analysis was conducted of online recruitment materials from a purposively selected set of agencies, which varied by location, agency type and size, and proportion of female police officers.


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The second quantum revolution and the role of police forces

Europol has published the first report in this area, “The second quantum revolution: the impact of quantum computing and quantum technologies on law enforcement“. The report offers a forward-looking evaluation of the impact of quantum computing and quantum technologies on law enforcement. It also outlines the ways in which these new technologies could be applied.

The report is the result of joint work between the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC), Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) and Europol’s Innovation Lab.

This document provides a forward-looking assessment of how quantum computing and quantum technologies may affect policing around the world and what to do to be prepared.

Quantum computing and quantum technologies are knocking on the door of law enforcement with new opportunities, as well as new threats, that authorities should anticipate. The problem is that these emerging technologies have the potential to affect a wide range of applications used by law enforcement but could also be exploited by criminals.

A particularly acute concern is the impact of quantum computing on cryptography. While quantum computing could offer advantages to law enforcement in investigating cases and improving password decryption, it also threatens to break the encryption used to keep sensitive information secure today.

In a concept known as “store and decrypt later”, criminal actors could already be accumulating encrypted information, such as illicitly obtained databases, protected files or communications data, and keeping them for the purpose of decrypting them later for criminal purposes.

To counter this, the transition to post-quantum cryptography is key. It is essential that law enforcement and data-driven organisations audit and protect their systems against a threat that is not just a concern for the distant future, but an imminent problem that requires immediate attention and action today.

In addition, the report highlights how quantum technologies could enhance machine learning and artificial intelligence, and the establishment of highly secure communication channels, as well as improve forensic capabilities.

Five key recommendations highlighted in the report for police:

  • Observe quantum trends: monitor relevant developments to detect emerging threats.
  • Develop knowledge and start experimenting to benefit from these developments in the future.
  • Encourage research and development projects that collaborate closely with the scientific community to build a network of expertise.
  • Evaluate the impact of quantum technologies on fundamental rights to ensure that law enforcement uses these new technologies while protecting these rights.
  • Review your organisation’s transition plans to make sure that critical systems are protected in the post-quantum era.


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Improvements in maritime security in the European Union

In October, the European Council approved the European Union’s Maritime Security Strategy and Action Plan to address security challenges at sea.

The aim of these improvements is to ensure that the EU has a variety of effective tools to address evolving security threats and new challenges, such as the increasing strategic competition for power and resources in the Union’s sea basins and beyond, environmental degradation, and hybrid and cyber-attacks against maritime infrastructures.

The Strategy provides a framework for the EU to adopt new measures to defend its interests at sea and protect its citizens, its values and its economy. The list of the six strategic objectives that have been translated into more than 150 concrete actions in the Action Plan is as follows:

  • Intensify activities at sea. The EU plans to organize annual maritime security exercises, carried out by coastguards and armed forces of the Member States.

One of the key actions is to intensify the fight against illegal and illicit activities at sea, such as piracy and armed robbery; organised crime, including smuggling of migrants; and irregular, unreported and unregulated fishing. It is also intended to strengthen safety inspections in the Union’s seaports.

  • Cooperate with partners. It is planned to intensify partnerships with like-minded countries and with regional and international organisations, promoting dialogue and best practices and defending the maritime order.
  • Take the lead in maritime downtime awareness. This includes improving the collection and exchange of information.
  • Manage risks and threats. Improve the collective resilience and preparedness of the EU in order to protect critical maritime infrastructures such as pipelines, submarine cables, ports, gas terminals, etc.
  • Improve capabilities. Develop common techniques for surface and underwater defence technologies, as well as create interoperable unmanned systems to monitor critical maritime infrastructures.
  • Educate and train. Another aim of the Strategy is to achieve a high level of specialised education, skills and training, which is essential for the EU to deal with present and future maritime security challenges.

Some of the key actions in this area are centred around the skills required to deal with hybrid and cyber threats and the implementation of specific training programs open to non-EU partners.

The implementation of the Strategy will be assessed in three years, in a joint progress report to be prepared by the Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.


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Interoperable Europe: more efficient digital public services across the EU

With the aim of creating a network of interconnected digital public administrations and accelerating the digital transformation of the European public sector, the representatives of the Member States (Coreper) have reached a common position on the proposal for legislation regarding measures for a high level of public sector interoperability across the European Union.

The aim of the draft Regulation is to establish a new cooperation framework for EU public administrations to ensure the perfect delivery of public services across borders and provide for support measures that promote innovation and improve the exchange of skills and knowledge.

With the objective of creating a set of interoperability solutions shared by the Union’s public sector, the proposed Regulation will establish an interoperability governance structure. In this manner, EU public administrations and other stakeholders have the opportunity to participate in and repurpose these solutions, collaborate on innovation, and generate added value.

Main elements of the European Commission’s proposal

The common position of the European Council maintains the general thrust of the Commission’s proposal with respect to the following:

  • Rules to ensure structured EU cooperation where public administrations, supported by public and private actors, come together in the framework of projects for Member States, as well as regions and cities.
  • A multi-level governance framework led by the Interoperable Europe Board and tasked with, among others, agreeing on common reusable resources.
  • The exchange and reuse of interoperability solutions, driven by a one-stop-shop for solutions and community cooperation (Interoperable Europe portal) and supported by measures to promote innovation and improve the exchange of skills and knowledge.

The Council’s text modifies several parts of the Commission’s proposal. The main changes include:

  • A clearer definition of the scope of the proposed legislation.
  • Clarifications on the objectives and conditions of the mandatory interoperability assessment to comply with the principles of proportionality and subsidiarity.
  • Alignment with the artificial intelligence act regarding regulators and consistency with the General Data Protection Regulation.
  • A stronger role for the Interoperable Europe Board, which is at the centre of the new governance structure established by the Regulation.


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Modernising the recruitment of new police officers in the U.S.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and with a very challenging job market, community frustration with the police profession increased exponentially, as did concerns about officer safety and welfare. All across the country, law enforcement agencies are facing a historic crisis in recruiting and retaining qualified candidates.

As agencies continue to look for innovative ways to attract qualified potential candidates while retaining current personnel, the crisis demands an immediate and effective response to ensure that law enforcement can maintain sufficient staffing levels to serve the public safety needs of their communities. Tackling these issues may require an examination of agencies’ foundational organizational structure and processes to meet the needs and expectations of both law enforcement and the community more clearly and simply.

In response to this situation and recognising that how law enforcement professionals are hired and retained has a major impact on reducing violent crime, as well as overall public safety and community trust, Attorney General Merrick Garland identified these issues as a top priority for the U.S. Department of Justice.

The Bureau of Justice Assistant (BJA) and Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), agencies of the US Department of Justice, brought together a group of more than 30 law enforcement and community leaders from across the country in Washington in April of this year to discuss existing best practices and emerging and transformative solutions designed to address current uniformed personnel challenges.

In addition to command staff and other police leaders from diverse associations, it was emphasized that recruitment and retention issues are among the most significant problems facing federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial law enforcement agencies across the country, regardless of size or location.

All of these reflections, recommendations and conclusions were compiled in a report on the recruitment of new police officers. Among the document’s recommendations are:

  • Short-term solutions, with a shorter implementation time.
  • Long-term strategies, with more time to implement them.
  • Introduce young people, as early as primary school, to law enforcement and public safety as a career.
  • Leverage the existing skills and interest of potential recruits in the policing profession with greater focus on programs such as internships (short-term) and apprenticeships (long-term).
  • Establish educational alliances.
  • Work with local secondary schools to identify and develop immersion opportunities.
  • Work with institutions of higher education to offer courses designed to teach students material relevant to a police career.
  • Consider creating a degree program focused exclusively on preparing students for careers in law enforcement.

As main conclusions, the document states that:

  • Law enforcement is at a crossroads as many officers leave the profession through resignation or retirement, while candidates are becoming less and less qualified.
  • The long-term strategies provided in this report invite law enforcement agencies to work to increase the attractiveness of policing as a job option, attract good candidates, and better prepare new recruits for the realities of modern policing.
  • It must be ensured that existing employees know they are valued, that the health and safety of the workforce is promoted, and that community trust is increased.


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Amphetamine in the European Union: environmental and production concerns increase

Amphetamine is the most common synthetic stimulant available in Europe, and it constitutes a large and stable market worth at least 1.1 billion euros annually. In a new analysis report published recently, EU Drug Market: Amphetamine, two Union agencies highlight the sophisticated production of amphetamines in the EU, as well as the impact on the environment.

The analysis carried out by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) and the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol) highlights that the amphetamine process covers the supply chain from production and trafficking to distribution and use. It also describes the processes, materials and criminal actors involved at the different stages and levels of the market.

Europe is a major world producer of amphetamine, along with the Middle East. These are the two regions where consumption is concentrated. In Europe, amphetamine is mainly consumed in powder and paste form, while in the Middle East it is mainly in tablet form. It is estimated that about 10.3 million European adults (aged 15-64 years) have used amphetamines in their lifetime, and 2 million have taken them in the past year.

Almost all amphetamine consumed in the EU is made domestically. Production is mainly concentrated in the Netherlands and Belgium, where it is usually carried out in large-scale facilities using complex equipment. Production is based on methods using an internationally restricted chemical, which is normally produced in Europe from unrestricted designer precursors imported from China.

European amphetamine producers are both adaptable and innovative. Traditional production methods have been simplified over the years to use fewer chemicals and less equipment, while providing a similar end product, but with higher profits.

There are some cases in which the manufacture of the consumer product is not finalised in the laboratories where it is synthesised. Instead, amphetamine is exported as base oil and converted to amphetamine sulphate in other laboratories. This causes concern about the expansion of these conversion centres to more European countries.

Between 2019 and 2021, 337 facilities related to the illicit production of amphetamines were dismantled in the EU. Large-scale amphetamine production generates large amounts of chemical waste that harm the environment, creating risks to human health and very high costs for local municipalities.

EU drug-related criminal networks do not appear to be otherwise involved in the pill trade and EU member states do not report any significant use of these capsules. European countries are mainly involved as transshipment points between producing countries outside the EU (Lebanon and Syria) and destination markets in and around the Arabian Peninsula. The report raises the question of whether the demand for pills in these markets may present opportunities for European drug producers to increase amphetamine production for export.

The criminal networks involved in the illicit amphetamine trade are business-oriented and highly adaptable. They often use the resources and infrastructure of others or engage in joint criminal ventures. The Europol document proves how logistical support has become a parallel business, in which some criminal actors acting as service providers, specialising in providing the chemicals, equipment and expertise required to set up and run production facilities.

The findings are based on data and information from the EMCDDA drug monitoring system and Europol’s operational intelligence on serious and organised crime. Based on a threat assessment approach, the agencies highlight key areas for action at the EU and member state level, which include:

  • Improving the strategic intelligence image.
  • Strengthening responses to reduce supply and improve security.
  • Driving international cooperation.
  • Investing in capacity building.
  • Strengthening policies, security responses and public health.


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European Council paves the way for a future common European asylum and migration policy

The representatives of the Member States of the Union have come to an agreement on the final component of a common European asylum and migration policy. At a meeting of the Council’s permanent representatives committee, Member States sealed their negotiating mandate on a regulation for crisis situations. This includes the instrumentalisation of migration and force majeure in the area of migration and asylum. This position must form the basis for negotiations between the presidency of the Council and the European Parliament.

Several European political representatives consider it a major step forward on a critical issue for the future of the EU. With the agreement, a better position is achieved to reach an agreement on the entire asylum and migration pact with the European Parliament later this year.

The new regulation establishes the framework that would allow Member States to address crisis situations in the field of asylum and migration by modifying certain rules, such as those regarding the registration of asylum applications or the asylum border procedure. These countries could also request solidarity and support measures from the EU and its member states.

In the case of a crisis or force majeure, Member States may be allowed to apply specific rules on asylum and the return procedure. In this regard, among other measures, the registration of applications for international protection may be completed no later than four weeks after the application is made, thus lightening the burden on overloaded national administrations.

A Member State facing a crisis situation may request solidarity contributions from other countries of the Union. These contributions may take the form of:

  • Relocation of asylum seekers or international protection beneficiaries from the Member State in crisis to contributing Member States.
  • Responsibility trade-offs, i.e., the supporting Member State would assume responsibility for examining asylum applications with the aim of relieving the Member State in a crisis situation.
  • Financial aid or alternative solidarity measures.

In accordance with the principles of necessity and proportionality, and in full compliance with the fundamental rights of third-country nationals and stateless persons, these exceptional measures and solidarity support require the authorisation of the Council.

The regulation tackling crisis situation and force majeure in the area of migration and asylum is part of the New Pact on Migration and Asylum proposed by the European Commission on September 23, 2020. The pact encompasses a set of proposals to reform EU migration and asylum rules. In addition to the crisis regulation, the asylum and migration management regulation and the asylum procedure regulation are other baseline proposals.


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A Guide to Mitigating and Preventing Stress in U.S. Law Enforcement Organisations

Researchers Jennifer R. Rinner and Travis A. Taniguchi developed the Customized Offerings for Mitigating & Preventing Agency-Specific Stress (COMPASS) project, with the knowledge that many aspects of police work could be stressful. Their work is based on having the necessary tools to identify which stressors affect agents the most and how to tackle them in order to create a sustainability plan.

Law enforcement officers often suffer from extreme stress, which differs in many ways from the stress experienced in other professions. On a regular basis, police officers are exposed to violence, human suffering, death, and unpredictable and uncontrollable events, in addition to maintaining non-standard work timetables.

Although efforts to address the mental health of police officers have often focused on exposure to traumatic incidents, research has shown that organisational stressors would be challenges related to the internal culture and practices of police agencies, which are also detrimental.

Work-related stress includes fatigue, insomnia, depression, anxiety and a whole host of psychological problems; other somatic problems, such as back pain and headaches, and harmful habits such as increased alcohol consumption and smoking, lack of physical exercise and diets with a high content of fat.

Work-related stress has been associated with more on-the-job injuries, increased absenteeism, and increased staff turnover. Work-related stressors correspond to negative emotions, such as frustration and anger, which increase the chances of having interpersonal problems with co-workers.

Stress can also affect police-community interactions. Officers experiencing greater stress-related burnout report more accepting attitudes towards the use of violence. Emotions induced by stress and fatigue are connected to police disengagement with the community. Stress can also have an impact on officers’ well-being, family life and interactions with community members, and ultimately the safety of the neighbourhoods they serve.

Most law enforcement agencies have some tools to support health and wellness. But a shortcoming of many available resources is the failure to incorporate significant contextual factors. Due to factors such as the size of the organisation, the internal culture, the political environment, and the relationship between police and professional staff, police organisations differ greatly in the challenges they face.

To address this gap, RTI International and the National Policing Institute, with funding from the Community Policing Development program of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office), developed a process that police chiefs can use to better understand and thus respond to the major sources of stress in their own departments.

The purpose of this publication is to offer agency leadership a step-by-step guide on how to identify which aspects of the job are causing the most stress to officers and staff (including supervisors), and then implement specific solutions to make improvements in these targeted areas. This guide provides instructions on the steps necessary to do this effectively, including:

  • Listening to the needs and experiences of officers and staff in different roles.
  • Understanding the underlying causes of the distress experienced.
  • Identifying areas that can be improved.
  • Implementing significant changes.
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of these efforts.

Before taking any of these steps, it is essential to identify the police chiefs who will lead the coordination of these efforts.


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