For the first time, the family of one of the victims of the July 22 terrorist attacks is publicly raising critical questions about the police response to the terrorist’s massacre at a Labour Party summer camp on the island of Utøya. The family doesn’t want to wait for the results of a commission investigating the response.
The family remains unidentified in a story in newspaper Aftenposten on their so-far unsuccessful attempts to obtain answers to their specific questions from either the police or the Justice Ministry. Aftenposten reported on a meeting with the family, however, in which family members shared their thoughts and the list of questions submitted to the police and ministry last month.
“We question whether a more correct form of action from the police, and in addition a coordinated action between the police and the military, could have disarmed the murderer earlier, so that many lives could have been saved,” wrote the family in an August 23 letter to the state director of police Øystein Mæland and Justice Minister Knut Storberget.
The family believes it’s unacceptable to have to wait either a year for a report from the July 22 Commission investigating the response to the attacks, or until February, when the police’s own evaluation of their response is expected.
Quicker answers to their detailed questions, many of which they claim could come from police logs that give a minute-by-minute account of the response, are necessary, the family claims, as they deal with their grief following the loss of a young family member on the island.
Around 150 investigators have already worked for the past two months on the terrorism case, questioning more than 400 witnesses and examining police logs, while the police, health care workers and rescue personnel have written their own reports. The family, however, claims they still don’t know when the first shots were actually fired.
Met the minister and director
They did have a meeting with both the police director and justice minister, but claim they didn’t get the answers they sought. Nor have their questions been answered in writing. They are most interested in specific response issues involving the local police district in Buskerud County, where Utøya is located. They also can’t understand why one particular question remains unanswered, regarding whether police leadership deems 60 minutes an acceptable response time. The main criticism that’s arisen since the July 22 was the time it took for police to arrive on the island and arrest the gunman.
Police director Mæland told Aftenposten that he thought the family had received clarification of various aspects of the police response. “I register that some are still critical … and we must accept that,” Mæland said. He stressed that the police, as a central public service, must tolerate criticism.
The leader of a national support group for victims of the attacks said all survivors and victims’ families must receive “proper answers” to their questions. “I expect more understanding, instead of merely referring to a press release already sent out,” Trond Henry Blattmann of the support group told Aftenposten. “On the other hand, we as a group can’t steer the police work.” He also said survivors and victims’ families were grieving in different ways, and had varying needs for information.
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