European Council intensifies fight against illegal drugs

In order to step up the fight against illegal drugs, the European Council adopted, in early June this year, a negotiating mandate on the proposal on the European Union Drugs Agency, aimed at turning the current European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction into a full-fledged agency and, above all, at strengthening its role.

The new Regulation will provide the Agency with the means to respond more effectively to the new public health and safety challenges posed by illegal drugs, provide better support to Member States and contribute to improving the international situation.

Data collection, analysis and dissemination will continue to be the Agency’s main task, but under the strengthened mandate it will also be able to:

  • Develop general health and safety threat assessment capabilities to rapidly detect new threats and develop regular foresight exercises to detect future challenges.
  • Specifically cover poly-substance use, which is the use of drugs in combination with other licit or illicit substances and which is becoming more and more common.
  • Increase its cooperation with the national focal points, whose position would be strengthened, enabling them to provide the Agency with relevant data on the national drug and drug addiction situation.
  • Establish a network of laboratories to enable the Agency to access forensic and toxicological information.
  • Develop evidence-based interventions to raise awareness and issue alerts when particularly hazardous substances appear on the market.

The Regulation will also clarify the Agency’s role in the field of international cooperation, so that it can fully participate in this type of activities and respond to requests from third countries and international organisations.

Negotiations with the European Parliament should begin once the latter has adopted its position.

It is worth noting that the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction was established in 1993 in Lisbon. It aims to provide the European Union and the Member States with factual and comparable information on drugs, drug addiction and their consequences, to serve as a basis for policy development, and to guide anti-drug initiatives. Its operation has greatly improved the availability of information on drugs and drug addiction throughout the EU and internationally.

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El Salvador’s government launches tough new offensive against gangs

After months of relative calm and fairly low levels of street violence, murders have increased again to levels not seen for almost 30 years in the Central American country. It could be said that the fragile truce of the gangs has come to an end.

As a consequence of this situation, a few weeks ago the Legislative Assembly approved a controversial request from the Executive to combat the gangs, aimed at reforming the penal code to toughen sentences against gang members.

As reported by bbc.com in an article, the measure comes after the government of Nayib Bukele asked the Assembly to declare a state of emergency in the country, after more than 80 murders took place during one weekend alone.

The laws, which for the time being will be implemented for one month, although they may be extended, include the suspension of freedom of association, the right to an attorney and the right to secrecy of correspondence. Currently, with the recently approved reform, gang members can be sentenced to 20 to 40 years in prison, while the leaders of these groups can receive a sentence of between 40 and 45 years in prison.

With regard to one of the most controversial points, the reform of the Penal Code also includes considering members of these groups over the age of 12 as adults – and judging them as such. This would be the first time that the government approves a specific penalty for those it considers gang members. Previously, in El Salvador these members were considered “terrorists” and were prosecuted under this category, although it was difficult to prove their participation in these groups, and sentences ranged from six to nine years in prison.

In this vein, the government has strengthened security in the streets and has requested in Congress to approve the state of emergency. The measure, approved by the ruling majority in the Legislative Assembly, limits freedom of association, suspends the right to be informed of the reasons for detention, extends the period of detention from 72 hours to 15 days and allows authorities to tap the mobile phones of those they deem suspicious.

According to the latest information, the authorities had arrested more than 3,000 suspected gang members. In parallel, President Bukele announced via Twitter that he had ordered to limit food and trips to the courtyard for imprisoned gang members and that their bed mattresses had been taken away. For several days, food has been rationed and the 16,000 imprisoned members have not left their cells.

Among the various reactions to the recent events, it is worth mentioning those of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights or Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International, which showed their concern for the situation in the country and trust that the measures being taken are in line with international human rights laws and standards.

It is worth noting that approximately 70,000 gang members operate in El Salvador and fight for control of extortion and drug operations throughout the Central American country.

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Bags designed to help police officers intervene with people suffering from sensory processing disorder

The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) now has a simple but effective way to respond to people who are unable to respond to them: sensory bags.

Designed to help people suffering from sensory processing disorder to calm down, these bags offer a way for officers to interact positively and communicate with these individuals, who may appear to pose a threat to themselves or others.

Combined with the training that comes with the delivery of the bags, ALEA troopers can easily recognise the symptoms of sensory processing disorder and know how to relate to people suffering from sensory overload. This avoids any misunderstandings that could increase stress in an intervention.

In 2013, 12 agencies and several law enforcement professionals from the state of Alabama came together in one entity to create ALEA. The agency now has around 1500 employees in various departments such as Homeland Security, Public Safety, Revenue Enforcement and Criminal Justice. In 2021, all sworn personnel of the agency, including troopers, special agents with the state bureau of investigation, communication officers, and members of the driver license division, completed Sensory Inclusion training. This made it the first state law enforcement agency to be certified by KultureCity, a non-profit organisation specialising in the acceptance and accommodation of people with sensory processing and other disabilities.

KultureCity’s training, which is primarily video based, focuses on instilling understanding, acceptance and empathy in first responders for those with sensory needs, who are estimated to represent between 5 and 16 percent of the U.S. population.

A common symptom of autism, this disability also affects people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, dementia, or strokes. It is a medical condition in which the brain has problems receiving and responding to information coming through the senses, causing them to be over- or under-sensitive to certain things they see, hear, smell, touch and taste.

Bright lights, street noise, scratchy clothing and other stimuli can overwhelm those who are hypersensitive and cause them to have an emotional breakdown and behave in ways that may appear bizarre, even aggressive. These individuals may seek sensory stimulation through activities such as shouting, flapping their arms, and randomly touching people, sometimes in a rough manner.

People experiencing sensory overload may be so overwhelmed that they cannot speak or mentally process what they are being asked to do. They may, therefore, appear to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and deliberately uncooperative.

Founded in 2013 by Dr. Julian Maha, whose son was diagnosed with a sensory disorder, KultureCity has provided training and sensory bags to more than 50 first responder agencies in the United States. Its training, designed to create acceptance based on an understanding of how people with sensory needs react to stimulus, focuses on four key areas:

  • Compassion for someone with an invisible disability or sensory need and awareness of how common these needs are.
  • The ability to recognise someone with an invisible disability or sensory need and how best to relate to them.
  • Strategies to help these people adjust to a situation that is overwhelming them.
  • How best to bring closure to this interaction and help resolve the situation in a positive way.

References:

CHADD. (2021, September 21). New Research in Sensory Processing Dysfunctionhttps://chadd.org/adhd-weekly/new-research-in-sensory-processing-dysfunction

Office of the Governor of Alabama. (2021, August 3). Governor Ivey Announces Sensory-Inclusive Training for State Law Enforcement Officershttps://governor.alabama.gov/newsroom/2021/08/governor-ivey-announces-sensory-inclusive-training-for-state-law-enforcement-officers/

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A strategy for stronger European Union security in the next decade

The European Council has formally approved the ‘strategic compass’, an ambitious action plan to strengthen the European Union’s security and defence policy by 2030.

The more hostile security environment makes it imperative to take a quantum leap forward and increase the capacity and willingness to act, strengthen resilience and invest more and better invest in defence and security capabilities.

The strength of the Union lies in unity and determination. The objective of this strategic compass is to make the EU a stronger and more capable security provider. The EU must be able to protect its citizens and contribute to international peace and security. This strategy should enhance the EU’s strategic autonomy and its ability to work with partners to safeguard its values and interests.

In order to strengthen its ability to anticipate and deter current and emerging threats and challenges, respond to them and safeguard the security interests of the European Union, the EU must:

  • Enhance intelligence analysis capabilities.
  • Develop hybrid teams for tools and response that bring together different tools to detect and respond to a wide range of hybrid threats.
  • Further develop the cyber-diplomatic toolbox and establish an EU cyberdefence policy in order to be better prepared for and respond to cyberattacks.
  • Develop a toolbox for foreign information manipulation and interference.
  • Provide additional incentives for member states to engage in collaborative capability development and jointly invest in strategic enablers and next-generation capabilities to operate on land, at sea, in air, in cyber domains and in outer space.
  • Develop a Union space strategy for security and defence.
  • Strengthen the EU’s role as a key player in maritime security.

A stronger security Union should contribute positively to global and transatlantic security.

The strategic compass provides a shared assessment of the strategic environment in which the EU operates and the threats and challenges it faces. The document makes concrete proposals for action, with a very precise timetable for implementation, to improve the EU’s ability to act decisively in crises and to defend its security and its citizens.

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Avoid excessive use of force through training

In democratic societies, one reality that police organisations must face is how to avoid excessive use of force. The debate often focuses on the demand for professional and criminal liability a posteriori, which also often clashes with a certain corporate “solidarity” of the officers who should contribute to proving the facts. An alternative (and more positive) strategy for dealing with these bad practices is to encourage the patrol colleagues themselves to stop or prevent these deviant behaviours, as in cases that have come to light, it has been shown that, while some officers exceeded the use of force, others who did not participate actively did nothing to prevent it.

In the United States, in recent years, following incidents of abuse of force that have happened around the world, attempts have been made to promote these interventions through training that attempts to reverse the passivity of officers who do not intervene directly but who witness the events. In 2015, the New Orleans Police Chief at that time, Michael S. Harrison, launched the EPIC (Ethical Policing Is Courageous) programme. He was assisted by psychologist Ervin Staub, a professor specialising in the psychology of violence.

The programme is based on the approach that police officers are people who at certain times may be tired and stressed, circumstances that may lead them to make mistakes. Their colleagues who are also present at the site of the action, but who do not make an intervention and instead take on the role of observer or spectator, can detect these situations, which may also be signs of mental illness or addiction. In this way, it is intended to avoid the reluctance that exists in the police forces related to corporatism and the culture of silence in the face of these deviant actions, as preventive intervention is not detrimental to the colleague, but rather prevents the incident. Therefore, it goes beyond the fact of not following someone who is performing a deviant action or stopping it, and the emphasis is placed on the causes and possible indicators.

At the same time, it proposes a paradigm shift in how loyalty is understood, that it should not be seen as keeping silent about wrongdoing, but should be the basis for preventing injuries, deaths or officers putting their professional careers at risk. In other words, it emphasises the need for officers to care for one another and redefines what is considered to be giving and receiving support from colleagues.

The training identifies the inhibiting factors that cause an officer to maintain a passive role and not stop an inappropriate action, such as lack of empathy or fear of being ostracised. It also shows how, with some small actions, these actions can be prevented or stopped before they become irregular: a police officer who takes charge of the action when they see their partner taking off their glasses, or another who removes the knee of a fellow police officer from the neck of a detainee. Other alternatives they propose are, for example, pointing out the badge given to police officers who have completed the training, or using some key phrases to take over the action or to make the fellow police officer see that the use of force must be stopped.

In the two years following the training of officers in this city, some incidents, such as vehicle pursuits or use of force complaints, declined, although it is unclear to what extent this decline was related to the programme.

EPIC was the basis that the Georgetown University Law School used for another programme, called ABLE, an acronym for Active Bystandership in Law Enforcement Policing, which has already been adhered to by over 200 US law enforcement agencies.

For more information you can consult the following links:

EPIC Programme

http://epic.nola.gov/home/

https://www.baltimorepolice.org/transparency/bpd-policies/1-ethical-policing-courageous-epic-training-lesson-plan

ABLE Programme

The New York Times. “A New Message for Police: If You See Something, Say Something,” February 27, 2022.

BBC News: “Ervin Staub: A Holocaust survivor’s mission to train ‘heroic bystanders'”

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-54339252

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European Commission: boosting cross-border police cooperation to enhance security

The European Commission has proposed a European Union Police Cooperation Code to improve cross-border police cooperation between all member states and provide EU police officers with more modern information exchange tools.

Since most criminals operate across borders, EU law enforcement officers must be able to collaborate quickly and efficiently. The Police Cooperation Code, which includes a Recommendation on operational police cooperation and new forms of information exchange, will help improve cross-border operations, provide clear channels and timeframes for exchanging information and give Europol a greater role.

In addition, revised rules on the automated exchange of certain categories of data will help to link crimes across the EU much more effectively. This will help to avoid information gaps, boost crime prevention, detection and investigation in the EU and promote security across Europe.

The proposed measures include:

  • A Recommendation on operational police cooperation, which establishes common standards on cooperation between police officers participating in joint patrols and operating in the territory of another member state. This covers a common list of offences for which cross-border hot pursuits are possible and secure messaging tools for police officers to communicate with their counterparts when conducting operations in other EU countries.
  • New rules on the exchange of information between law enforcement authorities of the Member States: police officers in one Member State must have equivalent access to information available to their colleagues in another Member State, under the same conditions. Member States shall establish a single point of contact, operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week, adequately staffed and functioning as a “one-stop shop” for the exchange of information with other EU countries. The requested information must be made available within eight hours (for urgent cases) and within seven days at the latest. The Secure Information Exchange Network Application (SIENA), managed by Europol, should become the default communication channel.
  • Revised standards on automated data exchange for police cooperation in the framework of the Prüm Decision, in order to improve, facilitate and streamline the exchange of data and help identify criminals. This ranges from the aggregation of facial images of suspected and convicted criminals and police records to automated data exchange and the introduction of a central router to which national databases can be connected, rather than a multitude of connections between each national database. Europol will also be able to support Member States in a more efficient way through the study of data from non-EU countries with member states’ databases, thus helping to identify known offenders in third countries.

Next steps:

It is now up to the European Parliament and the Council to examine and adopt the proposal for a Directive on the exchange of information and the Regulation on automated data exchange. The proposal for a Council recommendation on operational police cooperation is now to be discussed and adopted by the Council, after consultation with the European Parliament. The Recommendation would then serve as a basis for all member states to update their existing national or bilateral agreements.

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The European Council approves conclusions that recognise the key role of cultural heritage in the promotion of peace and democracy

The European Council has approved a series of conclusions that welcome the EU’s conception of cultural heritage in terms of conflicts and crises, enhancing the EU’s focus on peace, security and development.

The conclusions recognise that cultural heritage can have a key role in the promotion of peace, democracy and sustainable development, thus promoting tolerance, cultural and inter-confessional dialogue and mutual understanding. At the same time, cultural heritage can also be instrumentalised as a source or cause of conflicts. The conclusions reached ask for the protection and safeguarding of cultural heritage during periods of conflict and crisis.

The Council emphasises the importance of raising awareness of, and providing protection for, cultural heritage as part of a sensitive approach to conflicts throughout their various phases, and as a basis for a sustainable return to harmony and lasting peace. The protection and safeguarding of cultural heritage can contribute to preventing violent extremism, combating disinformation and generating positive and inclusive dialogue, in addition to contributing to societies’ overall resilience.

The Council also underlines the importance of reinforcing partnerships with relevant international organisations, regional organisations, inter-governmental and non-governmental organisations as appropriate, and calls for the protection and safeguarding of cultural heritage to be incorporated into the Council’s work in all areas of Foreign and Security Policy. 

The EU will now incorporate the protection of cultural heritage into all the relevant dimensions of the EU’s diplomatic toolbox.

As the missions and operations of the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) can make an important contribution to meeting security challenges in relation to the preservation and protection of cultural heritage, the EU will now develop a mini-concept dedicated to exploring the possibility of developing civil CSDP missions in this field, if required, by means, for example, of potential skill development programmes or training activities.

The EU will also try to incorporate the protection of cultural heritage into all the other areas of the EU’s foreign policy and into the relevant financial instruments, including the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Initiative (NDICI). 

Member States, the European External Action Service (EEAS), the Commission and other relevant organisms undertake to improve their cooperation in terms of cultural heritage in order to develop and exchange best practices and experiences.

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The European Council’s conclusions concerning migrations

The European Council has examined the situation regarding migrations and the various different migratory routes. While the measures adopted by the European Union and the Member States have reduced the overall total of irregular flows in the last few years, continuing developments related to certain routes are causing serious concern and requiring continues vigilance and urgent measures.

To avoid the loss of human lives and to reduce the pressure on the frontiers of Europe, as an integral part of the European Union’s external action, associative initiatives and cooperative measures will intensify with countries of origin and transit so that they can be beneficial for all parties.

The focus will be pragmatic, flexible, made-to-measure, and, as Team Europe, will make a coordinated use of all the instruments and incentives at the disposal of the EU and the Member States. It will be developed in close cooperation with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and with the International Organisation for Migration (OIM).

It will deal with all the routes used and base itself on an approach that takes into consideration each migratory route seen as a whole, fights the deep causes of migration. It gives support to refugees and displaced persons in the region, develops capacities to manage migration, puts an end to illicit trafficking, reinforces frontier controls, cooperates in terms of searches and rescues, at the same time dealing with legal migration that respects national competences, and guarantees returns and readmissions. For these reasons, the European Council:

  • Urges the Commission and the High Representative to reinforce without delay, in close cooperation with the Member States, specific actions with the priority countries of origin and transit and with their support.
  • Urges the Commission and the High Representative to present, in close cooperation with the Member States, action plans for the priority countries of origin and transit in the autumn of 2021, indicating clear objectives, more measures of support and specific time limits.
  • Invites the Commission to make the best possible use of at least 10% of the financial donation of the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument, and also of the financing with other pertinent instruments, for measures in terms of migration, and to inform the Council of its intentions between now and November this year.

The European Council condemns and refuses any attempt by third countries to instrumentalist migrants for political purposes.

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The European Council allocates 18 billion euros for internal affairs over the 2021-2027 period

The European Union is increasing the extent of its funding for measures in the fields of asylum and migration, integrated border management and internal security, to face the growing challenges in these policy areas.

The Council has adopted three sectoral proposals for the funding of policies in terms of internal affairs, within the 2021-2027 multiannual financial framework.

This funding will equip the EU with the tools required to meet the developing migratory challenges, both within the EU and in cooperation with third countries. It establishes four specific objectives: asylum policy, migration and legal integration, irregular migration and returns, and solidarity and sharing of responsibilities between Member States. The minimum percentages for the funding are linked to some of the objectives, with a minimum of 15% allocated to each of the objectives relating to asylum and legal migration set by Member States, and 20% allocated for solidarity.

With regard to the solidarity objective, the funding will increase incentives for transfers of applicants and beneficiaries of international protection between Member States. Incentives will also continue for the admission of persons by means of resettlement and humanitarian admissions.

The asylum, migration and integration fund also covers actions in third countries or in relation with the latter, recognising the role of other EU funds designed to deal with external action.

The text agreed reflects recent developments such as the expansion of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, the modernisation of the common visa policy, and the development and interoperability of large-scale computer systems (including the European system for the notification and authorisation of journeys and entry/exit).

According to the new mechanism, a minimum of 10% will be allocated to Member States’ programmes for visa policy, while the maximum percentage of financial support for the programmes has increased to 33% of the funding.

The new provisions also improve the simplification, flexibility, profitability and cooperation and coordination between the various national authorities. Assets acquired with a financial contribution from this mechanism will also be used in other areas, including Customs and maritime operations or those intended to attain the objectives of the other two internal affairs funds.

The fund is based on the current version and adapts it to new developments such as the need to intensify the fight against terrorism and radicalisation, serious and organised crime and cybercrime. It will provide support for improving the exchanging of information, for intensifying trans-border cooperation, including joint operations against terrorism and organised crime, and for strengthening the capacity to prevent and combat crime.

The financing for the purchase of equipment has been increased for Member States’ programmes up to a maximum of 35%, while operational support has been increased up to a maximum of 20%. Decentralised agencies will exceptionally receive funding when they contribute to the implementation of EU initiatives that are within their area of competence and which are not covered by the EU’s contribution to its budget obtained through the EU’s annual budget.

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Citizen Security Action Plan for Peru’s capital approved

The Metropolitan Council of Lima has approved ordinance number 2341-2021, which sets out the 2021 Citizen Security Regional Action Plan.

The purpose of the Plan is to carry out actions and activities designed to reduce public insecurity and contribute to peaceful coexistence in the context of the national scenario brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2021 Citizen Security Regional Action Plan, approved by the Mayor of Lima, Jorge Muñoz, consists of two chapters detailing the current security situation in Lima.

The first chapter analyses the citizen security indicators from a socio-demographic perspective and interprets the multiple social factors and risks that propitiate criminal behaviour.

The second chapter, called the Strategic Framework, details the 95 actions and strategies scheduled throughout the year and suitably supported by the allocated budget.

The Plan’s foremost challenges include reducing homicides, reducing deaths and injuries from traffic accidents, reducing violence against women, promoting public spaces by trying to prevent theft and robbery and preventing crime, among others.

The Plan was drawn up by the state entities that make up Lima’s Regional Committee on Citizen Security. The main entities include the Public Ministry, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, the Ombudsman’s Office, the Lima Police Region, the National Penitentiary Institute and the Volunteer Fire Brigade.

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