Norwegian Police

Norwegian Police

1. Administration.

There are 5 police regions, among which are
54 police districts. The districts are led by
police commissioners (Politimestre), who have as
their immediate subordinates, deputy police
commissioners (Politiinspektorer), assistant
commissioners (Politiadjutanter) and
superintendents (Politifullmektiger). Police
commissioners and deputy police commissioners are
appointed by the King in Council. The other two
classes of officials are appointed by the Ministry
of Justice and Police. (Kriminalitet og
rettsvesen, 1992: 40; Public Prosecution
Authorities and Police in Norway, 1992: 4).
The police force is administered directly by
the Ministry of Justice and Police. It is also
subordinate to the Public Prosecution Authority
(den offentlige p�talemyndighet) with regard to
the investigation and prosecution of crimes. The
police commissioners and their immediate
subordinates form the first instance of the Public
Prosecution Authority, which is headed by the
Director General of Public Prosecutions
(Riksadvokaten). (Administration of Justice in
Norway, 1980: 51; Criminal Procedures Act, Sect.
The Director General is appointed by, and
directly accountable to, the King, independent of
the Ministry of Justice. He or she is assisted by
40 Public Prosecutors or State Attorneys
(Statsadvokater), 37 of whom are assigned to
particular geographical jurisdictions. There are
9 such jurisdictions. In addition, there are 8
Public Prosecutors attached to the recently
established Central Unit for the Investigation and
Prosecution of Economic and Environmental Crime.
All Public Prosecutors or State Attorneys are
lawyers and appointed by the King. (Norges
Statskalender 1993, 1993: 194-195; Politi og
p�talemyndighet, 1988: 12-13).
In rural areas, police duties are carried out
by sheriffs (Lensmenn), each of whom has general
administrative authority in relation to a defined
district. There are 370 such districts. (Politi
og p�talemyndighet, 1988: 28). As a police
officer, a sheriff is accountable to the local
police commissioner. (Police Act, Sect. 6).
There are several special units to the police
force, all of which are administered centrally.
These include the National Bureau of Crime
Investigation (Kriminalpolitisentralen –
“Kripos”), the Police Security Service (Politiets
Overv�kingstjeneste), the Police Computing Service
(Politiets Datatjeneste), the Police Equipment
Service (Politiets Materielltjeneste) and the
Mobile Police (Utrykningspolitiet). There is also
a small specialist anti-terror squad based in
Oslo. (Public Prosecution Authorities and Police
in Norway, 1992: 6-7).
The functions and tasks of the police are
many and varied, ranging from the usual
maintenance of law and order, the investigation
and prevention of crime, to more specialized
administrative tasks, such as immigration control
and control of lotteries and gambling. The main
rules governing the functions and tasks of the
police force are found in the Police Act of 1936
(Lov om politiet 13. mars 1936 nr. 3), the Police
Instruction of 1990 (Alminnelig tjenesteinstruks
for politiet 22. juni 1990), the Surveillance
Instruction of 1977 (Overv�kingsinstruks 25.
november 1977), the Weapon Instruction of 1989
(V�peninstruks for politiet 1. august 1989), the
Criminal Procedures Act of 1981 and the
Prosecution Instruction of 1985. (Forskrift om
ordningen av p�talemyndigheten 28. juni 1985 nr.
It should be noted that the fundamental right
of police to maintain public order is based on
customary law and not set down in statute.
However, this right was included in a proposal for
a new Police Act, drafted in 1991 and submitted to
Parliament in 1994. (Odelstingsproposisjon nr. 83,
The police are completely independent of the
military forces. In certain emergency situations,
such as rescue operations and natural
catastrophes, the police can seek the assistance
of the military when there are insufficient
civilian resources to cope with the situation. In
such cases, the military forces are under command
of the police and must follow the laws which
regulate police actions. (Police Instruction,
Chapt. 14).

2. Resources.

*Expenditures. In 1993, the police force was
allocated NOK 2,857,267,000. The sheriff force
was allocated NOK 875,548,000. These sums do not
include money allocated to the Norwegian Police
Academy or the Police Equipment Service.
(Driscoll, 1993).

*Number of police. In 1993, there were 6,827
police officers, including officers serving in the
sheriff force.
As of 1991, there were 374 female
police/sheriff officers. While there are no
figures available on the number of female officers
for 1992 and 1993, it is estimated that in 1993
women comprised about 8%-9% of police officers and
4% of sheriff officers. As of 1993, there were 2
female police commissioners.
All police officers in 1993 had a Norwegian
background, except for one woman from Pakistan.
There were also several other officers who were
born in other countries but adopted and raised by
Norwegian families. (Driscoll, 1993).

3. Technology.

*Availability of police automobiles. As of August
1993, there were approximately 1,620 police
automobiles. Approximately 1,000 of these were
State-owned; the rest were rented. In addition,
there were 86 motorcycles, all of which were
State-owned. (Hagen, 1993).

*Electronic equipment. Computer technology is
used by the police force for a variety of
purposes, including reporting crimes, gathering
and processing crime statistics, budgeting,
accreditation of officials and fingerprinting.
(An Automated Fingerprint Identification System
[AFIS] has been in use with the National Bureau of
Crime Investigation since the beginning of 1985.
[Politiets Datatjeneste, 1993: 25]).
All police and sheriff stations have on-line
links to a central computer network maintained by
the Police Computing Service. At present, police
cars are not mounted with mini-computer terminals,
but there are plans to mount a fleet of police cars
with such equipment later this year. Mobile
telephones, radio equipment and radar guns are
also widely used. (Haukaas, 1993; Politiets �rbok
1991, 1991: 18-21; Politiets Datatjeneste, 1993).

*Weapons. The most common type of weapon with
which police arm themselves is a wooden baton.
There are 2 main types of guns available for use
by ordinary police officers: US carabiners (30
caliber) and Smith & Wesson revolvers (model 10).
Machine guns are available to specially selected
police units, such as the anti- terror squad.
There are light bullet-proof vests for
approximately half of the operative police force.
They are distributed unequally between the various
police districts depending on need. Almost all
police officers on patrol in Oslo have
bullet-proof vests. There are also approximately
2,000 heavy bullet-proof vests and helmets
distributed between the police districts. (Hagen,

4. Training and qualifications.

Persons seeking to be recruited into the
police force as ordinary service personnel must be
between 21 and 30 years old, have Norwegian
citizenship, and be of good health, character and
standing. (Police Act, Sect. 13). They must also
have completed a 3-year training course run by the
National Police Academy (Politihogskolen) in Oslo.
This training course involves 1 year of studies at
the academy, followed by 1 year of practical
training at police stations, and then a year of
further study back at the academy.
(Politihogskolen, 1993: 8). At present, there are
no compulsory postgraduate courses for service
personnel, although such courses have existed in
the past. Those seeking to be recruited to the
upper echelons of the police force, such as the
rank of superintendent, must have completed a
university degree in law. (Police Act, Sect. 4).

5. Discretion.

*Use of force. Section 67 of the Criminal
Procedures Act provides the police with general
authority to investigate and prosecute cases of
crime. It also provides the police with authority
to seek court permission to apply certain coercive
measures, such as arrest and seizure of property,
during the investigation and prosecution process.
These coercive measures are described in Chapters
14-17 of the Criminal Procedures Act and amplified
in Chapters 8-11 of the Prosecution Instruction of
Rules governing the use of weapons by police
are contained in the Weapon Instruction (WI) of
1989 (V�peninstruks for politiet 1. august 1989).
The instruction covers the use of guns,
explosives, gas and batons. Batons and gas can
only be used in “especially dangerous situations”
or when police cannot carry through a task without
being subject to a risk of injury. (Weapon
Instruction, Sect. 17).
Guns shall only be used as a “last option”,
when: (a) police or others are threatened by
weapons or violence and the use of guns seems
necessary to prevent the loss of human life or
serious injury; or (b) it is necessary to
immediately apprehend a person who is suspected
of, or charged with, a serious violent offense,
including attempts at such offenses, or a person
who is otherwise seen as being of special danger
to national security, to life or health; or (c) it
is necessary to prevent serious damage to foreign
property, or when especially important interests
of society are threatened. (Weapon Instruction,
Sect. 19).
Before using weapons, police must consider
the danger or risk of injury to which outsiders
will be subjected. If circumstances allow, they
must initially warn a person that weapons will be
used against him or her if he or she does not obey
police orders. They must also fire a warning
shot. Explosives can only be used in order to
gain access to locked or barricaded premises, when
the conditions in Section 19 of Weapon Instruction
are fulfilled, and upon an order from a police
commissioner. (Weapon Instruction, Sect. 20,22).
Police on routine patrol do not carry guns.
Police commissioners can authorize that handguns
be taken by police when patrolling by car. In
such cases, the weapons and ammunition must be
kept in locked cabinets in the patrol cars.
Special police units can carry other types of
weapons, if permitted by the Ministry of Justice.
Police are allowed, on a case by case basis, to
carry guns in certain dangerous situations.
(Weapon Instruction, Sect. 5, Sect. 10-11).

*Stop/apprehend a suspect. Information not

*Decision to arrest. The major legal requirements
that must be met before a person can be arrested
by the police are provided in Chapter 14 of the
Criminal Procedures Act. Generally, the decision
to arrest a person must be made by an official of
the Public Prosecuting Authority, which includes
the higher-ranking police officials, or a court.
An ordinary police officer or private citizen may
make an arrest on his or her own initiative if
delay “entails any risk.” However, these sorts of
arrests must subsequently be ratified as soon as
possible by the Public Prosecuting Authority.
(Criminal Procedures Act, Sect.175,176,179). There
are no statistics available on the number of
arrests made without a warrant.
Whether a person is arrested depends
primarily on the type of penalty for the offense
he or she is suspected of having committed, along
with the risk that he or she will try to evade
prosecution and/or commit another crime. Section
171 of the Criminal Procedures Act states that any
person who is suspected “with just cause” of
committing a felony punishable by more than 6
months’ imprisonment may be arrested when: (1)
“there is reason to fear that he will evade
prosecution or the execution of a sentence or
other precautions”; (2) “there is an immediate
risk that he will interfere with any evidence in
the case…”; (3) “it is deemed necessary in order
to prevent him from again committing a criminal
act punishable by imprisonment for a term
exceeding 6 months”; or (4) “he himself requests
it for reasons that are found to be
satisfactory.[…].” None of these four
conditions need to be met in order to arrest a
person suspected of a felony punishable by
imprisonment of 10 years or more. Such a person
may be arrested if he or she confesses to the
felony or there are circumstances “that strengthen
the suspicion to a marked degree.” (Criminal
Procedures Act, Sect.171,172).
Persons “caught in the act” of committing a
crime may be arrested irrespective of the penalty
the crime incurs. This is also the case when
there is “reason to fear” that a suspect will
evade prosecution by fleeing abroad. After being
arrested, a person must be brought before a court
“as soon as possible and as far as possible on the
day following the arrest”, so that an order can be
issued that the person be remanded in custody.
(Criminal Procedures Act, Sect. 173,183-184).
It is possible for police to detain a person
for up to 4 hours without arresting him or her.
This temporary detention can be imposed on persons
who “disturb the public peace and order”, or who
do not comply with a police request to give their
name, age and place of residence, or who are found
in the vicinity of a place where a felony is
“deemed” to have occurred immediately beforehand.
Further guidelines on when and how police may
detain persons who disturb the public peace and
order are provided in Chapt 9 of the Police
Instruction. (Criminal Procedures Act, Sect.191).

*Search and seizure. The police may search a
person’s premises if that person “is with just
cause suspected of any act punishable by law with
imprisonment.” The police may also conduct a
bodily search of such a person “if there is reason
to assume that it may lead to the discovery of
evidence or of objects that may be seized.”
Pursuant to Sect. 157 of the Criminal Procedures
Act, it is also possible to conduct a physical
examination of a suspect during a court inquiry.
(Criminal Procedures Act, Sect. 192,195)
In certain circumstances, police can search
the premises of persons other than the suspect and
to conduct bodily searches of these persons. All
searches must be made pursuant to a court order,
unless the person concerned consents to the
search, is “caught in the act” or there is “strong
suspicion” of an act punishable by more than 6
months’ imprisonment and there is an “immediate
risk that the purpose of the search will otherwise
be thwarted.” Searches should be conducted “as
far as possible” in the presence of an independent
witness. Upon being arrested, a person may also be
searched in order to find and dispossess him or
her of anything that may be used for the purpose
of violence or escape. (Criminal Procedures Act,
Sect. 178,192-195,197,198,199).
Any objects “deemed to be significant as
evidence” may be seized. Seizure will normally be
the result of a written decision of the Public
Prosecution Authority or a court, but a police
officer can effect a seizure on his or her own
initiative “when carrying out a decision to make
an arrest or search, and otherwise when delay
entails a risk.” Any seizure may be challenged in
a court. (Criminal Procedures Act, generally
Chapter 17, Sect. 203,205,206,208).

*Confessions. Police have no authority to order
any person, including suspects, to make a
statement. However, they can record any
statements that are made by the suspect. Suspects
must be informed that they are not obliged to make
any statement, before they are examined. In
addition, persons conducting an examination of a
suspect, such as the police, prosecuting
authority, and court, must not use “promises,
false information, threats or coercion”, or “any
means that reduce the level of consciousness or
ability of the person charged to make up his own
mind freely.” (Criminal Procedures Act, Sect.
If the suspect admits to having committed a
crime, he or she must then be asked whether s/he
admits being guilty and liable to a penalty. If an
unreserved confession is made, the suspect must be
asked whether he or she consents to the case being
adjudicated in a court of summary jurisdiction.
(Criminal Procedures Act, Sect. 233).

6. Accountability.

Complaints alleging that police have breached
criminal law in carrying out their duties are
handled by special investigatory bodies,
independent of the Ministry of Justice and Police
and subordinate to the Director General of Public
Prosecutions (Riksadvokaten). All cases in which
police actions have resulted in a person’s death
and/or serious bodily injury must be investigated
by such bodies, irrespective of whether or not a
complaint has been made. It is up to the
Riksadvokat to decide whether or not to prosecute
the police. (Prosecution Instruction; Sect.7-2,
34-6; cf Chapt 34; cf s 34-8).
Allegations of police acting in breach of
discipline are handled by special committees
(ansettelsesr�d) attached to each police
department. Decisions reached by these committees
can be appealed to the Ministry of Justice and
Police. The Ministry also handles general
complaints about police behavior. (Aukrust, 1993).

Note: this work was completed in 1993


See Also

  • Criminal Justice
  • Legal System
  • Criminology
  • Norwegian Criminal Justice System

Further Reading

  • Cole, George F., S. J. Frankowski, and M. G. Gertz, (1987) Major Criminal Justice Systems. Beverly Hills: Sage.
  • David, R. and J. E. Brierley (1968) Major Legal Systems of the World Today. London: Free Press.
  • Fairchild, E. (1993), Comparative criminal justice systems. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
  • Feeley, Malcolm M. (1973), “Two models of the criminal justice system”. Law and Society Review, 7(3): 407-425.

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