Police under fire after local brawl

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Residents of Bogerud on Oslo’s east side continue to criticize police for allegedly heavy-handed tactics against local youth last week. Police claim they felt threatened, while the youngsters accuse them of escalating a confrontation on a hot summer evening.

A total of 17 police patrols were sent to the Bogerud area of Oslo after reports of a brawl that turned into a violent confrontation with the police. PHOTO: Justisdepartementet

While the weather in Oslo has cooled down, frustration in Bogerud hasn’t. Newspaper Dagsavisen and other media continue to publish versions of the confrontation that are entirely different than what police initially claimed.

It all started last Monday evening, when police received a call that a large group of youngsters had gathered at Bogerud Center, a commercial area near the neighbourhood’s metro stop. “As far as I know, someone claimed they’d seen a knife,” local official Thomas Pedersen, who’s in charge of youth services for the area, told Dagsavisen.

‘Treated like animals’
Police responded with 17 police patrol units plus a helicopter. Police also drew weapons, claiming they had the impression that the youth were aggressive. Several teenagers at the scene claimed the opposite, calling the police aggressive and responding with unnecessary force.

“We felt like we were being treated like animals,” one of the boys told state broadcaster NRK. He said the police arrived yelling and brandishing clubs and weapons, pushing youth up against a wall at the center.

It all turned into a major brawl. “This is an incident that’s absolutely, completely unusual in our neighbourhood” Pedersen told Dagsavisen. He said youth often gather at Bogerud, calling it “a natural meeting point in our area.”

‘Angry and frustrated’
He said that many of the youth he’s spoken with since  remain “angry and frustrated,” because they viewed the entire situation as unnecessarily violent. Independently of one another, they’ve rejected the police version of events. “They had the impression the police were not interested in any dialogue,” Pedersen said. “At the same time, the youngsters didn’t contribute towards calming things down. Both sides need to take their share of the blame.”

Hanne Eldby, leader of the neighbourhood council’s committee for youth issues and activities, was also upset by the police reaction. “I wouldn’t say that all of the youngsters are the world’s nicest, but it looks like police received a call that described the situation as much worse than it was,” she told Dagsavisen. Other local residents also defended the youngsters, some of whom said they were scared by the police.

Both Eldby and Pedersen planned meetings with the police to settle issues raised, and Pedersen described dialogue with the police as positive. “Now we’re working to restore confidence between police and the youth,” he said. Efforts are also ongoing to help youth from troubled and relatively poor homes in the area, with programs to help them stay in school, have some hobbies and find part-time jobs.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund