The Unarmed Police Force of Norway: Background information when reading American by Day

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American by Day

by Derek B. Miller

American by Day by Derek B. Miller X
American by Day by Derek B. Miller
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2018, 352 pages

    Apr 2019, 352 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez
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The Unarmed Police Force of Norway

This article relates to American by Day

Print Review

Norwegian Police Officer in 2011In Derek B Miller's American by Day, which takes place in 2008, Oslo Chief Inspector Sigrid Ødegård doesn't carry a gun. She is a member of Norway's unarmed police force, one of nineteen countries worldwide with cops who don't carry guns. This is despite the fact that Norway falls eleventh among first world countries of per capita gun ownership; there are 30 registered per one hundred citizens. The United States is number one with a reported 32-42% of the population owning guns.

Even after the 2011 mass shooting attack on a youth camp by right-wing terrorist Anders Behring Breivik, Norwegian police officers remained unarmed. They carry weapons locked in their cars but not on their persons. This briefly changed in 2014 when, in October of that year, a threat assessment gave strong indication of a terrorist attack "likely to happen" within the next twelve months. So the Norwegian Police Directorate ordered all police officers to be armed at all times. Their primary objective in all instances, as Chief Inspector Sigrid Ødegård points out, was de-escalation of volatile situations which can best be accomplished without firearms.

Fourteen quiet months later in 2015, the order was rescinded, and Norwegian Police remain unarmed to this day. Statistics show that over the span of that armed period there was no increased incidence of weapons drawn or people shot, wounded or killed by police officers. In ten of the twelve years between 2002 and 2014 not one of Norway's five million residents was killed as a result of police gunfire. In contrast, over 1,100 people were killed by police gunfire in the United States in 2017 alone.

In Norway there are basically three types of gun owners. There is a vast culture of hunting and sport shooting which comprises a large portion of civilians that own firearms. The police have guns (again, locked in cars) and they are required by law to take 48 hours of weapons and tactical training per year (103 hours of training for SWAT-type officers.) The third category of gun owners is the Norwegian Civil Defense, comprising conscripted individuals – both men and women – between the ages of 18 and 55 who may be called up in times of national emergency.

Norwegian police officer carrying a gun in 2011

Filed under Places, Cultures & Identities

Article by Donna Chavez

This "beyond the book article" relates to American by Day. It originally ran in May 2018 and has been updated for the April 2019 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

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