PST boss takes over state police

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Benedicte Bjørnland has won praise for her leadership of Norway’s police intelligence agency PST (Politiets sikkerhetstjeneste) during the past six years. Now Justice Minister Tor Mikkel Wara has appointed Bjørnland to head the country’s entire state police directorate.

Benedicte Bjørnland was handed flowers from Justice Minister Tor Mikkel Wara after he appointed her as Norway’s new director of the state police. PHOTO: Justisdepartementet

“The police are in the middle of a major restructuring and we also have major reforms underway,” Wara said after naming Bjørnland as politidirektør on Thursday. “We’re therefore glad we have such a competent and clever leader to take the process further.” Bjørnland, he said, “has documented leadership experience and results, and she’s done a good job at PST.”

Bjørnland, age 53, noted that she joined PST after working for the police for many years, where she already was known for a policy of openness and inclusiveness. “I really look forward to take on the new assignments that await me now,” Bjørnland said at a mid-day press conference.

She won’t be taking over just yet, however, because she said she wants “to round off” her work at PST “in a proper manner,” and stay in her current position for another three months. She’ll formally start leading the police from April 1.

“I think I’ll be a police director who listens to others, not be a solo player,” Bjørnland told news bureau NTB. “I want to be able to rely on good support. I like to work, so I’ll go into this with everything I have.”

Bjørnland is well aware that the police reform program, which has included merging police districts and restructuring operations, is challenging and not entirely popular, either internally or among the public and opposition politicians. “There’s a need for ongoing improvements within the police and that’s where I want to contribute,” she said. “I need to become more familiar with the situation before I can plot our course further.”

Bjørnland comes from Vestfold, southwest of Oslo and was graduated from the University of Oslo’s law school in 1991. She was police chief in the former Vestfold Police District from 2003 to 2012, when she took over as head of PST.

She replaces Odd Reidar Humlegård, age 57, who said in September that he didn’t want to renew his term when it expired at the end of November. He had been director of the state police throughout Bjørnland’s tenure at PST.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund