On Monday, three people were stabbed and killed on a bus in Norway. When the police showed up, they were unarmed.
When arriving at a crime scene, the Norwegian police are not usually unarmed. Monday’s incident was obviously a mistake, something that should not have happened. The first police patrol to arrive at the crime scene were unarmed, a spokesman from Politiets fellesforbund said, amongst others due to the fact that they were called out to what was, apparently, a traffic accident.
Not coming from the Police Academy, I am not familiar with the detailed rules, but the point is that the Norwegian police, in general, do not carry weapons. Mainly in addition to Ireland and New Zealand, Norway is one of the few countries in the world with an unarmed police force.
When moving to Paris, I cannot say that I was surprised when seeing armed police (in addition to eating fish and watching burning wood, we do read newspapers), but the fact is that I am not used to it. I guess I haven`t really thought much about this aspect of the Norwegian society before living in another country.
However, the armed versus non-armed aspect of the Norwegian police is highly debated. Personal safety for the police officers is, of course, one of the main arguments for why the police should carry weapons. Another argument relates to public security.
I asked a friend of mine in the Oslo police force, whether she thinks the current Norwegian situation is right. Immediately, she said “yes”. If we were to carry guns, she said, I do not think that the people we talk to every day on the streets would look at us in the same manner as they currently do. She explained that when talking to all these different people, many of them already in highly problematic and desperate situations, they feel that they can talk back and converse with the police without feeling intimidated by weapons. If the police were carrying guns on the other hand, she would assume that people would most likely see her and her colleagues as more of a threat, “and no good would come out of that”. She believes, without doubt, that words reach further than weapons.