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Sunday, May 22, 2022

A police chief out of the ordinary

Øystein Mæland, tapped late last week to be Norway’s new chief of police, is a psychiatrist and Labour Party veteran who’s held a long list of leadership roles both in and out of politics. He’s also married to a man and the couple is expecting their second child this fall, with the help of a surrogate mother in California.

Øystein Mæland (left) being welcomed as Norway's new chief of police by Justice Minister Knut Storberget. PHOTO: Ministry of Justice

Not exactly the most conventional choice to lead 12,000 police officers nationwide, but Mæland has the support of the police officers’ union and a proven track record of tackling difficult tasks.

He has, for example, been a state secretary in the Justice Ministry, a member of the Oslo City Council and handled tough immigration issues in the 1990s. The 51-year-old doctor most recently has headed the main psychiatric clinic at Norway’s largest hospital, Ullevål in Oslo. In addition to finishing medical school, he studied criminology as an undergraduate and worked as a doctor at one of Norway’s biggest prisons.

In short, Mæland has a varied background that also has always included lots of work with the Labour Party, starting from an early age. He founded a Labour youth organization at a school in one of Oslo’s most conservative districts, Smestad, and went on to become a close friend of Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg when Stoltenberg headed another Labour youth group at nearby Majorstuen district. Mæland was, in fact, Stoltenberg’s best man in a wedding party that included many of today’s top business and political leaders, not least Rune Bjerke, chief executive of Den norske Bank (DnB).

Mæland is quick to point out, though, that he was approached by a professional head-hunting agency assembling candidates for the job as the boss of Norway’s national police directorate. “I want to stress that I have been through a recruiting process that was very thorough and professional,” Mæland told newspaper Dagsavisen. “My qualifications and leadership abilities have been evaluated by an experienced consultancy that forwarded their recommendation.

“There hasn’t been any political management of this process at all. But Norway is a small country and folks know one another.”

Acknowledges possible controversy
His personal status is also fairly well-known and he said he realizes his marriage to a man and their decision to have two children involving surrogate mothers may still be controversial, even in liberal Norway.

“In my new job, I won’t take part in the public debate on this,” he said, referring to Norway’s restrictions on surrogate motherhood. “But we stand for our own decision. We feel secure in doing this in California, where contracts, laws and court precedent secure all sides.” He said his soon-to-be born son will be told his history and indicated he likely will meet his surrogate mother and egg donor.

Mæland will report to Justice Minister Knut Storberget, also from the Labour Party but whom Mæland says he doesn’t know personally. “He (Storberget) has shown great commitment to the police, and I look forward to work with him,” Mæland said.

He succeeds Ingelin Killengreen, who resigned earlier this year. Mæland was formally appointed to his post by King Harald, for an initial six-year term.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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