Oslo police face major scandal

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NEWS ANALYSIS: The veteran police officer arrested this week on corruption charges has been called a “living legend” within the Oslo Police District, who lived with constant death threats as he regularly cracked down on some of the Norwegian capital’s toughest criminals. Some suggest he’s been framed, others that the charges against him are so serious that several media outlets, in an unusual move, chose to identify him. The Oslo police face a huge scandal whether he’s ultimately convicted or whether the charges are found to be without merit.

The case against a high-profile leader of the Oslo Police is the most serious ever confronting police in Norway. PHOTO: Politi fellesforbund

The case against a high-profile leader of the Oslo Police is the most serious ever confronting police in Norway. PHOTO: Politi fellesforbund

Norwegian media are generally extremely reluctant to identify persons charged with crimes until they are convicted, unless they hold important positions viewed as being guardians of the public trust. Police officials are at the top of that list, and that’s why websites like VG.no, the biggest media outlet in Norway, opted to identify 56-year-old Eirik Jensen as the defendant in a case that has rocked the entire police establishment in Norway. Other media, with the initial notable exception of Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK), quickly followed, over the protests of Jensen’s defense lawyer and tough questioning from the online journal for Norwegian police, Politiforum.

Among them was newspaper Aftenposten, who carried Jensen’s photo on its front page Wednesday morning and chronicled his career, which many describe as “unconventional” and “controversial.” Jensen’s aggressive, often brash, methods of tackling criminal gangs in Oslo and tough motorcycle clubs like the Hells Angels and Bandidos won him both friends and enemies, also within the police.

“It’s correct that he is a high-profile policeman,” Jensen’s defense lawyer Jens-Ove Hagen conceded to Aftenposten. “When you stick your head up, you don’t only attract friends.”

Finn Abrahamsen, a former Oslo police leader who now works as a private investigator, worked with Jensen for years. He told Aftenposten that his first thought when he heard about Jensen’s arrest on Monday, followed by a custody hearing on Tuesday, was that he may be the victim of persons seeking revenge.

“Eirik Jensen has worked against extremely demanding criminal circles for many years,” Abrahamsen said. “He may be targeted by people who want to frame him.” Odd Reidar Humlegård, state director of the Norwegian Police, called the charges “extremely serious” and that they now all had to wait for results of an investigation by the police department’s internal affairs division. The charges are so serious that if found guilty, Jensen can be sentenced to 10 years in prison, lengthy by Norwegian standards.

Charges called ‘vague’
Officers from the internal affairs division, called Spesialenheten, were waiting in the garage of the main Oslo police station (Politihuset) when Jensen arrived for work Monday morning. They arrested him on charges that his defense lawyer Hagen called “vague” and immediately jailed him in isolation. Hagen claimed that even under questioning later in the day, Jensen was never presented with documentation that allegedly incriminates him.

Aftenposten and other media were reporting on Wednesday that the allegations against Jensen emerged during an investigation and arrests made late last year in a case involving a major narcotics network in suburban Bærum. In that case, an investor in his 40s has admitted possession of nearly 90 kilos of hash, and police seized around NOK 1 million in cash in his home. It’s not clear exactly what has come out of that investigation, which involves several suspects, to implicate Jensen but connections are alleged.

Jensen, meanwhile, has earlier claimed success in the so-called “Gang Project” he led in Oslo in recent years, which helped break up the violent criminal organizations that even had led to shootouts in public areas. He also has worked closely in cracking down on several allegedly violent and criminal motorcycle clubs, even though he has been a member of a club himself and reportedly owns two Harley Davidsens. He’s lived under threats from the criminals he’s chased for years.

‘In despair’
Now he’ll need to defend himself against his own employer and the police system where he’s spent most of his adult life. He denies guilt, his defense lawyer said, and is “in despair” over not being presented with concrete charges of what he’s allegedly done wrong. Even if charges are dropped, Jensen’s career and projects he led may be in shambles.

The police, meanwhile, live under constant accusations of failing to crack down on themselves when things go wrong, and have an obligation to investigate charges lodged. Jensen has conceded, in an article in the police department’s own magazine Norsk Politi, that he “falls outside” the “relatively firm image of how a policeman should be.” He seems to have thrived on his unconventionality and even the controversy that’s surrounded him during the course of his more than 30 years on the force.

Inge D Hanssen, a longtime crime reporter and commentator for Aftenposten, noted how many of Jensen’s colleagues reacted with disbelief to the corruption charges filed against him. Speculation flew over whether they involved bribes or other “advantages” from criminal circles. Hanssen claimed the Norwegian police, a statewide organization in the country, has never experienced such a serious case of alleged internal corruption before. He called Jensen a “pillar” in the fight against crime and a “master” in teaching many of the others who have top leadership roles within the Oslo police. Liv Øyen, leader of the investigation against Jensen, told reporters on Tuesday that it will “take time.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund