Most police officers in Norway have traditionally been unarmed. And the Anders Brevik massacre doesn’t seem to have changed that, at least for a majority of officers responding in a recent survey of the snappily-dressed patrolmen by their union. As union president Arne Johannessen puts it, most of Norway’s cops “want to retain what he called ‘a civil image’ and the ability to work closely with the public.”

As reported at newsinenglish.no,

“We want to have a police force that can handle the most demanding assignments with the least amount of force,” Arne Johannessen, head of the police officers’ union Politiets Fellesforbund, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) this week.

A survey of the union’s own members showed that fully 60 percent of the police officers questioned said they do not want to be armed at all times. At present, they only arm themselves after receiving authorization in dangerous situations.

The trick, though, is knowing when you’re going to need that carry piece. Short of a fairly reliable crystal ball, that can be hard to anticipate. It’s difficult to imagine a beat cop in Oslo having the time during a terrorist attack to run back to the precinct house, ask for the keys to the gun cabinet and then getting back to the scene of the mayhem in time to be terribly effective.

[Johannessen] noted that even though the majority opposed standard arming, their opposition is based on a few conditions including better staffing so that police can more quickly receive back-up as needed.

“And we must have easier access to weapons when we’re in a dangerous situation,” Johannessen told NRK. “That means having weapons storage in all police districts, both one- and two-handed weapons, and revision of weapon instruction in Norway.”

Isn’t the easiest “easier access” having it right there on your hip? Does a cop’s gun really tarnish the Norwegian police’s “civil image?” Kinda gives a whole new meaning to “when seconds count, the cops are only minutes away,” doesn’t it?

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25 Responses to Post-Brevik, Most Norway Cops Want to Stay Unarmed

  1. The various posting seem a bit at odds.

    On one hand, we have kamikazi cops chasing down perps at high speeds with shot up patrol cars, repeat stories of horrible gun handling or piss-poor accuracy, over-the-top reactions by over-armed gung-ho cops, no-knock raids by fully armed SWAT teams to serve minor warrants, and the gradually descent into a full fledged police state that we rail against here in the USA.

    On the other hand, we have the nice and polite Norwegian cops stating that they can work better with the public if they’re unarmed.

    Call me Shirley, but I’m thinking we should maybe start unarming our cops here just a little bit. Let’s face facts, the Norway terrrorist was an aberration. A horrible aberration, but an aberration just the same. Any reaction to it will end up being an over-reaction to 99.9% of the typical police work in Norway.

    And really, given what I’ve seen, I’m not sure our heavily armed police force here would have done any better. These are the same cops who, knowing they have an active shooter inside a school full of children, spend an hour setting up the perimeter.

    Don’t expect any better from the police, and remember, the more power you give them, the closer we are to a police state. Sorry for any police officers reading this, but it’s true.

  2. A quick google search shows that Norway has very low gun related crimes in general. The country as a whole about 1 in 100,000 and 2 in 100,000 in their major cities.

    Although, they have had a string of problems lately with what they are calling copycats
    http://www.thelocal.no/page/view/grizzly-find-hikes-oslo-murder-rate

    Despite the recent problems, and the fact that the police are there to just clean up the mess, give their low crime rate, it seems they can handle being unarmed

  3. I’m willing to bet that the cops in Norway couldn’t hit the side of a barn, so they don’t need any guns.

  4. “when seconds count, the cops are only minutes away,”
    — In Norway, when seconds count the cops are only hours away.

  5. It doesn’t seem too difficult to strike a balance between cops with as much gear as an infantry fire team, and cops armed with kind words and a feather duster.

  6. I fail to see how a lump of metal or polymer hanging off one’s hip ruins a “civil image.” If a civilian feels more uncomfortable around a police officer who’s armed than one who’s unarmed, that says much more about the police/country than the gun. Decide, Norwegian police: are you there to protect the public, or make them feel warm and fuzzy?

    Some people never learn.

    • Well if you ask the police in the US, they’ll inform you that their job is to apprehend criminals after they have committed a crime – not to protect citizens or prevent crime.

  7. Unarmed cops are not cops at all, they are negotiators and security officers. If I need a cop I want one that can defend me and my own. Not one who can quickly write down a description and request that a bad guy comply with his commands out of a sense of obligation to his or her community. Unarmed cops were ill-equipped and not effective during the UK riots and during the Brevik incident. American cops are as effective as their training and gear (read as: what politicians and tax payers are willing to provide).

  8. This is an interesting point for me, because there are multiple ideas at work.

    One is the idea of policing and what it means. I think it’s inaccurate and socially dangerous to believe they are there to protect the public. It’s established in law that the police cannot be held liable for failing to protect the public, and with good reason as there is no way they can be available to protect everyone. The role of policing is to enforce the law, find those that break the law and bring them before the courts. This is largely a matter of information gathering, firearms unnecessary. Can the police act to protect the public, have they? Absolutely, and I will always be appreciative when they do. I just won’t assume they’ll be available when needed.

    The next idea revolves around the idea of the power of the state. That power is always disproportionately greater than the individual’s. Arming the agents of the state for routine policing simply underscores this disparity, particularly in societies where the population is disarmed. In this sense, a “civil image” is indeed reflected better by not overtly arming the agents, their authority is derived from the state, not from the firearm. A subset of this idea is the one of deterrence. Patrolling does have a deterrent effect on criminal activity, and is an important part of policing. But the deterrent effect comes from the power of the state, not the idea that an individual officer is going to pull his firearm and shoot the criminal.

    The last idea (for this comment) is the individual’s right to self-defense. I think the individuals wearing the uniform retain this right just as does the rest of society. And I think it’s reasonable to posit that the risk to a uniformed individual is more constant (but not greater). Acknowledging this, I think the police should absolutely be allowed to arm themselves to the same level as the citizens in day to day policing. In Norway (and NYC) this means doing the daily policing with the guns locked up at the station.

    I applaud Norway’s police for maintaining their stance and not overreacting to an aberrant event. Now if we can just get them and the rest of Norway to see the value of self protection…

    JSG

  9. Thats why people from Oslo say that the crime there is bad and the police don’t do anything because they are pansies.

    The gangs have a deal with the cops: you keep being pansies and being afraid of us and we won’t bother you. And that’s exactly what happens.

  10. @Don: What I think you’re suggesting is gun control for cops. We keep telling the Brady Bunch “it’s not the gun, it’s the criminal. Let’s deal with crime and leave guns alone.” Well in this case, it’s the cop, not his gun that’s the problem.
    “Taking away their guns” is the lazy person’s approach to crime control, and “taking away their guns” is an equally lazy/ineffectual approach to cop control.
    It’s the officer, and the attitude in the officer, both singly and as a department that sets the tone of how they interact with the public.
    It’s going to be far, far harder to change those attitudes, but it’s a worthy pursuit, and it doesn’t have to involve changing what they carry or whether they carry.
    I recall a Norman Rockwell painting that depicts a police officer leaning over to talk to an admiring kid sitting next to him at the soda fountain counter. The tone of the image is cheery and civil – even though the officer is armed with his service gun.
    Only 18 inches or so of counter space separated this man from the youth.
    Today, when I see police at a diner, they sit as far away from other patrons as possible, sometimes even in a section that is clearly “closed” to other diners (but what waitress or hostess is going to tell a cop that their desired section is closed, right?)
    It’s unfortunate that there’s such a physical, social and psychological separation between the general citizenry and the police that protect them, but I’m quite convinced that it doesn’t have to be this way.

    • Aaron – think of cops not as individuals, but as an “arm of the state”. I’m not for disarming individuals based on some dopey ill-informed notion about self-defense. I’m for weakening the state where I see it’s gotten too strong.

      Yes, you’re right. We should work toward changing the attitude of the regular beat cop. We should try to break down the us vs. them mentality. Unfortunately the pendulum has swung too far and now needs an over-reaction just to get it moving back where we need it to be.

      As for the Normal Rockwell painting, I’d be pleased as punch to have every uniformed cop armed with only a S&W K-frame .38 special. If he tried to paint that same scene today, he’d have to add a Glock, multiple mags, baton, taser, mace, tactical folding knife, kevlar vest, web gear, and an attitude. Not exactly the same image, right?

      Finally, the tools (weapons) a cop carries while on duty is not relevant to discussions of private ownership and concealed carry of the individual. Two different issues.

  11. I do not understand the “but the odds of it happening again are so low” mentality. The same as the gun grabbers in the US the police in Norway are dogged in the belief that the odds a weapon is required to save a life and can do so in a crisis are too low to allow them on your person. I fail to understand how LEOs in clear conscience can believe such when they are just as easily shot as the original victim. Shot, stabbed, beaten, or whatever have you.

    Police here have a duty to not retreat in the face of immediate danger. They have the tools to confront danger until it can be handled or backup arrives.

    In Norway if they have an armed assailant or multi assailants the officer has the same options I do. I do not know how that is a comfort to me if I am getting the tar kicked out of me and they show up to get the tar kicked out of them right after me.

    It makes police into a window dressing for the sake of appearances. I fail to understand that logic for cops; how they are the public’s first line of defense?

    • The error, from my perspective, is believing that the police are the public’s first line of defense. Their numbers are too low for any police force to be deployed as a first line of defense. The only chance we have of maintaining a first line is if the citizenry take the responsibility for their own defense.

      I’m not arguing that the police should be disarmed, by the way. As I said before, I think they have the same rights to self-defense as every other citizen. I’m just of the opinion that the notion that the “police should protect us” puts an unrealistic burden on the officers (with undesirable results) and removes the responsibility from the citizenry. I think that’s where the idea that only the police and the military should have firearms grows from. If people are going to abdicate the responsibility for their protection to the state, they don’t want anyone but the state to be armed, otherwise they are in danger.

      The reality of police training dictates that the average officer is trained to use a firearm in self-defense, not for citizen protection or active shooter interdiction. This is not a knock on the police, just recognition that the bulk of their duties are not shooting related or even firearm related.

      Contrast the Norwegian response to a terrorist attack on their soil to the U.S. response. They’ve evaluated their existing policies and decided that this rare event does not warrant a change in a system that they believe is working. In the US we’ve seen law enforcement assuming authority and abridging the rights of the citizens far outside the realm of anything that would have impacted the terrorist attacks that occurred here. And doing it in the name of a protection they cannot realistically provide.

      JSG

      • In the case of myself and mine, no. I gladly assume the role and train mine to do what needs to be done when I am not around. However, there is a sizable amount of people who have no recourse outside of the police and the idea behind “police” is to defend those who cannot defend themselves.

        I concede that citizens taking a truly proactive role in their protection would reduce the need for a large standing police force but police officers also prevent the inevitable “faction” effect. A common excuse for a neighborhood gang is area/turf protection. I do digress just a bit though, forgive me.

        Also, given I have seen and done police training, you are right. The training is singularly focused on officer survival. That fact actually escaped me in all honesty. This does impact exactly what the expectations of an officer are versus the reality. Reality being the closest a patrol officer gets to hostage shooter training is shooting at the target of a big ugly badguy using a damsel as a human shield. Rather lackluster I do concur.

        However, in the name of efficient response, officers should be armed. Police tactics, as lackluster as they can be, are usually better than leaving the suspect at large with nothing to worry about. The shooter in Norway was the definition of heavily armed. A large police response of the average patrol officer would have been a bloodbath. Already on top of the other bloodbath. That is my point.

  12. I’m from Norway.
    After what the media says, this question was asked to the police people, before 22.7.
    But I have now problem believing that the opinion are the same to day.
    The big debate here have been, why din’t the first police went over to the Island? (They had guns in the car). But that waited on the SWAT.

    And then we have started a new gun debate.
    Shod we ban semi auto rifles?
    Who is already heavy regulated.
    There are work now on a new gun law, which started over a year ago. Many gun owners are now afraid the government will take a way there big hobby.

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