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military

China’s leadership gathers for secretive summit amid tight security

For a seaside resort where nothing is officially happening, the town of Beidaihe in northern China has a lot of security. There is an armed police checkpoint on the outskirts. We’re stopped again for another passport check further on. Uniformed officers are stationed at regular intervals along the roads, their plainclothes colleagues, identifiable by plastic earpieces, standing nearby. By the beach, among tourists carrying rubber rings, we saw armed paramilitary police.

Image: Communist Party villas near public beaches

No one will confirm it, but they are here to protect China’s Communist Party leadership, thought to be holding its annual secretive summit at the resort. Mao Zedong started the tradition in the 1950s, with the party elite decamping to the coast to escape the stifling Beijing summer heat, to decide the country’s future in private. For all the appearance of modernisation in China, in 2017, this is still how power is exercised in the “People’s Republic” – behind high walls and carefully guarded gates. There is no mention of the meeting in state media. The only indication it has started is the sudden absence of senior officials from evening news bulletins, and the simultaneous appearance of heavy security on the streets of Beidaihe. On one side of a long fence is the crowded public beach – on the other, the manicured, private sands of the Communist Party villas.

Image: Black cars sweep through at speed

At intervals, black cars sweep through at speed, as ordinary traffic is halted to let them pass. But then we were ordered to stop filming . When I asked why, I was told: “Because we are police.” More plainclothes security agents followed us along the street, before stopping and questioning us about what we were doing there, and taking our names and passport details.

Image: Sky’s Katie Stallard was stopped by officers

This is a crucial year for General Secretary Xi Jinping, who appears to be consolidating his personal control ahead of an important party congress this autumn, which will determine the country’s leadership for the next five years. He may also signal whether he plans to step down in line with the recent convention of serving two terms, which would end in 2022, or intends to stay in power. At a military parade1 to mark the 90th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army recently, President Xi appeared, unusually, as the only civilian on the podium, and reviewed the troops in combat fatigues.

Image: China’s President Xi Jinping

“Xi was wearing his commander-in-chief hat both literally and figuratively,” Andrew Polk, co-founder of Trivium China explained. “This is a very clear signal that Xi is in charge of the army, which is part and parcel of being a powerful leader.

“The message is: I’m in charge of domestic politics, I’m in charge of the military apparatus, the nation is strong, and I am the leader of that strong nation.” Back in Beidaihe, we found more clues to who was in town on a roundabout, where red characters spelled out: “The Party is in my heart, welcome the 19th Congress.” There were more warm words for the Party’s leadership on the beach.

Image: One of the packed public beaches in Beidaihe

“I think it’s quite normal that the government take some measures and they have the right to do this their own way . They do that for our country’s safety and people’s happiness,” one man assured us. Soaking up the sun nearby, another man told us: “China has thousands of years of history . It needs time to develop, but I think China is getting better and better.”

If Xi Jinping could have heard him on his side of the fence, he would have approved.

References

  1. ^ military parade (news.sky.com)

Australia centralises national security agencies amid heightened threat

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said on Tuesday Australia’s domestic security bodies, including the police and the national spy agency, will be centralised under a single minister as Canberra tackles the rising threat of “lone wolf” attacks.

Oversight of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and the police force had previously been the responsibility of three government officials but would now be handled by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, Turnbull said, under a model similar to that used by the British Home Office.

Turnbull said the centralised model would ensure greater coordination between Australia’s security agencies.

The national security overhaul came as Australia, a staunch ally of the United States, reshapes its counter-terrorism response after a series of lone-wolf attacks and heightened fear of attacks by home-grown militants returning from fighting in the Middle East.

“Our security environment is being shaped by changes in our region and beyond,” Turnbull told reporters in Canberra.

“It is being shaped by the very real threat of home-grown terrorism that is increased with the spread of global Islamist terrorism,” he said.

The Cabinet shake-up came a day after Turnbull said Australia’s military would be more readily deployed to respond to “terrorist incidents” at home.

Under those proposed law changes, state and territory governments would be able to call for military help at any time after a “terror incident” has been declared .

Previously, the military could only be called upon once police concluded they could no longer deal with an incident.

Australia’s domestic security policies have come under close scrutiny since a lone gunman staged a 16-hour siege at a Sydney cafe in December 2014, during which two hostages were killed.

A coronial inquiry found in May that police failed to respond quickly enough to end the siege, which has been described as Australia’s deadliest incident inspired by Islamic State extremists .

The gunman, who was killed by police, had no direct ties to the militant group.

Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Paul Tait

Where do the parties stand on policing and security?

  1. ITV Report
  2. 6 June 2017 at 1:12pm

Police near the scene of the Lonodn Bridge terror attack . Credit: PA

Questions over Britain’s security have come to the forefront of the election after the UK suffered its third terror attack within months. Here is what the three main parties are pledging if they take power on June 8.

The Conservatives have said they will invest in the military and target extremism . Credit: PA

The Conservatives have pledged to create a new Commission for Countering Extremism that will have a remit to clamp down on “unacceptable cultural norms” such as female genital mutilation. They have also said they will invest 178 billion in new military equipment over the next decade and maintain the Trident nuclear defence to “to provide the ultimate guarantee of our security”.

Work will continue on a 1.9 billion investment in cyber security against online attacks, the party said. And by leaving the EU, Britain will be able to take control of immigration policy “for the first time in decades”, it said.

Labour have pledged to boost national security with more police . Credit: PA

Labour have pledged a slew of funding for police and security agencies.

They would hire 10,000 more police officers to work in communities, plus 3,000 more firefighters and 3,000 more prison officers. The party has promised to bring in 1,000 more staff at security and intelligence agencies MI5, MI6 and GCHQ to step up efforts to prevent terrorism. It will also recruit an additional 500 border guards.

Labour supports the renewal of the Trident nuclear deterrent, though Jeremy Corbyn said he would never want the UK to launch the first nuclear attack in a conflict.

The Liberal Democrats have pledged to boost funding to local police forces . Credit: PA

The Liberal Democrats would give an extra 300 million a year to police forces and would also place a strong focus on cross-border intelligence with international partners. They would allow intercepts where justified and permit surveillance of those suspected of serious crime and terrorism, but would roll back state surveillance powers and state-sponsored efforts to break online encryption. A Lib Dem government would scrap the “flawed” Prevent anti-extremism scheme and replace it with a new scheme that engages communities.

The party is committed to remaining in Europe, meaning the UK would remain open to EU citizens, but says they would control borders with stringent entry and exit checks. It supports maintaining Trident but has pledged to reduce the level of Britain’s nuclear fleet.

The SNP have said they want better protection for Scotland . Credit: PA

The SNP have said that police numbers are up in Scotland – in contrast to England – while crime is at a 42-year low. Their manifesto pledges focus more on defence.

The party has said it would scrap Trident, and spend the billions in savings on public services. However they would instead press for investment in conventional defence, including at HMNB Faslane as a conventional military base. SNP MPs would support a Strategic Defence and Security Review to assess if ocean-going patrol vessels should be permanently based in Scotland.

They might also lobby for more aircraft to protect the country’s skies.

The Greens would focus on targeting rape, domestic violence and FGM . Credit: PA

The Green Party has made few pledges on the issue of security. It would create a UK-wide strategy to tackle gender based violence, including domestic violence, rape and sexual abuse, FGM and trafficking.

It has pledged to cancel the planned Trident replacement, which it says would save at least 110 billion over the next 30 years.

Ukip have pledged to be tough on crime with 20,000 more police officers . Credit: PA

The party has pledged to be tough on crime, with a promise to hire an additional 20,000 more police and employ 7,000 more prison officers. Ukip has also vowed to reinstate stop and search and crack down and would ban the burka or other face covering in public.

It would create an over-arching role of Director of National Intelligence, who will be lead a new, single, unified intelligence service. The party has also pledged tougher action on so-called honour crimes, grooming, and forced marriage. Ukip has said that it would retain the Trident nuclear deterrent.

Last updated Tue 6 Jun 2017