‘Limitless’ threats keep police armed

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Norway remains under serious threat of terrorist attack by “militant Islamists,” police intelligence unit PST has declared. That prompted Justice Minister Anders Anundsen to extend the allowance for police to remain armed for at least another month, and now they may also be able to carry pistols that fire electric shocks.

Justice Minister Anders Anundsen has once again extended his "temporary" allowance for armed police, nearly a year after it was first invoked. At left, Police Director Odd reidar Humlegård and at right, PST chief Benedicte Bjørnland. PHOTO: Justis- og beredskapsdepartementet

Justice Minister Anders Anundsen has once again extended his “temporary” allowance for armed police, nearly a year after it was first invoked. At left, Police Director Odd reidar Humlegård and at right, PST chief Benedicte Bjørnland. PHOTO: Justis- og beredskapsdepartementet

“The threat picture from militant Islamists has never been as limitless as it is now,” said PST (Politiets sikkerhetstjeneste) chief Benedicte Bjørnland as she, Anundsen and Police Director Odd Reidar Humlegård delivered their latest update on the status of threats facing Norway. She said the situation posed by foreign warriors and sympathizers of the brutal Islamic extremist group ISIL remained unchanged, and PST’s evaluation of a heightened threat of terrorism still applies.

Analyses of risk and vulnerability have been carried out in each of Norway’s 27 police districts. None of the local police chiefs reported in alternative proposals that could replace the arming of police on patrol.

‘Still necessary’
“The police believe that it is still necessary to be armed, in order to secure the public and police officers’ safety,” Humlegård said.

Anundsen, who’s ultimately the boss of both Humlegård and Bjørnland, went along with extending the arming allowance that remains controversial within many political parties. Norwegian police have a long tradition of being unarmed, but recent public opinion polls have indicated support for the arming now.

“The threats we face, and the measures we’re allowing, are based on the analyses from PST and requests form the opolice,” Anundsen said, adding that the allowance for what’s still called “temporary” arming of the police is “anchored in the government as a whole.”

Critics dismissed
PST’s boss dismissed criticism earlier this week from retired supreme court justice Ketil Lund, who claims in a new book that PST is spreading fear of Islam and stygmatizing Muslims. Lund claimed the police and justice ministry officials were letting themselves be used by PST.

“Lund doesn’t know PST in 2015,” Bjørnland told newspaper Dagsavisen. “He also clearly isn’t aware of the threats facing Norway today.” She noted that seven of 15 attacks in western countries in the past year have targeted police in uniform, after an ISIL leader encouraged followers to kill police and military personnel on their own home turf.

She wouldn’t talk about any terrorist attacks that PST may have averted in Norway, calling that “classified information” that she can’t detail. She added, though, that “we follow a growing radical milieu closely” that’s comprised of ISIL and Al-Qaeda followers. “What would have happened if we hadn’t done that is a matter of speculation, and I’m surprised Lund doesn’t understand that,” she said.

The pending use of electric-shock pistols, meanwhile, is under evaluation, Humlegård said. “It’s no quick-fix,” he cautioned, nor is it without danger, but it may offer an alternative to carrying conventional loaded guns.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund