Norway no ‘Wild, Wild West’
’There’s no spray and pray here,’ says instructor Espen Olsvik. ‘The shot has to be justified. And you don’t empty your clip in the hopes of eventually hitting the target’
OSLO (AFP) — Revolvers in hand, they advance slowly down the hallway past the panicked and wounded witnesses before the armed suspect suddenly comes into view, about to kill a man cowering on the floor.
To shoot or not? It’s a split-second decision. The gun is a laser training weapon and the mass shooting is a scene projected on an interactive screen.
At the Oslo police academy, housed in an imposing red-brick building, police cadets are learning how to handle an active shooter.
In the United States, the numbers killed by police hit a new record last year — at least 1,194 dead according to Mapping Police Violence, or more than three a day. In Norway police are rarely involved in fatal shootings.
“There’s no ‘spray and pray’ here,” says instructor Espen Olsvik. “The shot has to be justified. And you don’t empty your clip in the hopes of eventually hitting the target,” he adds.
Cadets are debriefed after every practice round on the simulator. Did you have to open fire on the extremist? At what exact moment? How do you neutralize a suspect wearing a bulletproof vest?
“We have criteria like being a good team worker, open-minded and analytical capacity,” says the head of the academy’s bachelor department Philip Christopher Tolloczko.
“We don’t want any Wild West cowboys here,” he says.
On the contrary, “at an operational level, we spend a lot of time practicing how to de-escalate situations.”
Tellingly, 80 percent of Norwegians say they have confidence in the police force. As in Britain, the question of whether Norway’s police should be armed at all times is regularly debated.
While Norwegian police are normally unarmed — their service weapons are locked in their patrol cars — they can be ordered to carry weapons temporarily for security reasons.
“Temporarily” is sometimes a relative concept — after a fatal shooting on the sidelines of Oslo’s Pride festival in June 2022, police were armed for 237 days until the order was dropped on Monday.
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