Many foreign journalists covering the July terrorist attacks in Norway were surprised to learn that Norwegian police are generally unarmed. A new survey indicates they want to stay that way.
“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.
Johannessen said that after evaluating the survey, comparing Norway’s practice with that in other countries where police are armed, and talking with weapons experts, Fellesforbund had decided to officially support the policy that being armed will not be standard practice in Norway.
Debate has broken out on the arms issue over the years, and especially after the July 22 terrorist attacks in Oslo and the island of Utøya. Johannessen said that even after the attacks and increased threat of terrorism, the police want to retain what he called “a civil image” and the ability to work closely with the public.
He 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.”
He’s calling for national rules that would allow lower-ranking police officers to approve arms use, not just the local police chief.
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