Publication - Research and analysis

Coronavirus (COVID-19): international policing responses - part 2 - easing of lockdown

Published: 27 Jul 2020

This review (part 2) considers international policing approaches and responses during the easing of lockdown (up to 15 June 2020) and future considerations.

74 page PDF

1.6 MB

74 page PDF

1.6 MB

Contents
Coronavirus (COVID-19): international policing responses - part 2 - easing of lockdown
Norway

74 page PDF

1.6 MB

Norway

Main points

  • There is concern about increases in domestic abuse and about children whose parents are drug-users
  • The police saw an increase in driving licences being revoked, which have been linked to young people's boredom during the coronavirus
  • There have been claims of increased gang-related violence carried out by youths in some Oslo neighbourhoods
  • The police reported concerns about a potential lack of PPE
  • The police did not to intervene in Black Lives Matter protests, as the emergency coronavirus legislation remains unclear over whether protests are banned or not
  • The police's approach is to firstly provide guidance and advice before resorting to force or prosecution
  • As a consequence of the new measures implemented by the government to assist businesses and individuals during the coronavirus crisis, there may be a greater risk of businesses and individuals taking advantage of the welfare system
  • A number of police forces expressed concern about the costs of handling the pandemic in the context of an already tight police budget, especially after the crisis subsides

Current situation

From 7 May, Norway started easing lockdown. Schools and sport facilities re-opened, while remote working is still recommended. Bars and cafes reopened from 1 June, and from 15 June gatherings of up to 200 people will also be allowed.[167] Norway has also taken its first tentative steps to reopening its border, which has been essentially closed to non-residents for almost three months. Since 15 March, the Directorate of Immigration and the Police have had the power to expel most foreigners without a residence permit. Those regulations have now been changed to allow EEA citizens who want to visit close family, or a leisure property that they own, into the country.[168] From 15 June, Norway will open up tourism with Denmark, but restrictions will still be in place for Swedes.[169]

Key challenges

Domestic abuse

There is concern about increases in domestic abuse, and a number of phone support services are in operation. There is also heightened concern for children whose parents are drug-users.[170]

Revoking of driving licences

Norway police saw an increase in driving licences being revoked, which increased by 2.6 percentage points between 16th March and 6th May, compared with the same period in 2019. Some local police officers have linked the increase in speeding transgressions to young people's boredom during the coronavirus crisis.[171]

Youth crime

There have been claims of increased gang-related violence carried out by youths in some Oslo neighbourhoods during the coronavirus emergency, which may have been linked to school closures. However, the extent of the alleged impact of coronavirus on the current violence surge remains uncertain according to the police.[172]

Health and safety

Norwegian police also reported various concerns about a potential lack of PPE.

Black Lives Matter

An estimated 12,000 people filled the park in front of the Norwegian parliament building on 5th June to participate in a Black Lives Matter protest. In Stavanger, approximately 4,000 people attended the event, significantly more than authorities had expected.

Examples of good and/or innovative practice

Policing approach

The Norwegian police's approach is to firstly provide guidance and advice before resorting to force or prosecution. Nevertheless, in line with the directives from the Director of Public Prosecution, the police has given priority to violations of the Control of Communicable Diseases Act, which can be punished with fines. The police also continues to focus on investigating cases involving sexual abuse, domestic abuse and other serious crime. Such approach was reiterated during Norway's national holiday celebrations, when the Police Director said: "We don't want to be the kind of police that goes in with force to get people to follow the advice of the authorities".

The same approach was taken during the Black Lives Matter protests, when the police said in advance they would not intervene, with the Oslo police operations manager stressing that the police's priority is to allow the public right to protest. He said:

"We have been quite clear that we are not an infection control police, so it takes a lot for the police to intervene with a view to infection control. We must maintain peace and order and ensure that people are allowed to present their message".[173]

This continues to be the preferred approach, with the Norwegian police website stating:

"To the extent this is possible, the police will apply a strategy of prevention, advice and guidance. Blatant violations of the Control of Communicable Diseases Act will be taken seriously and may result in prosecution".

In an op-ed on the magazine Aftenposten, police lawyer Kal Spurkland explains that really the police was left with little choice but to allow the protests to go ahead. This is because the emergency coronavirus legislation sates that events of more than 50 people are banned, including sports events, cultural events and 'other events' such as birthdays and weddings. It is not clear whether demonstrations are covered by the ban, nor has the Directorate of Health been able to confirm that this is the case. Due to the lack of clarity of the regulations, the police had to respect the Norwegian constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights, allowing the protests to go ahead.[174]

Police students

Some 400 newly educated police students without a job (due to budget cuts) were recently hired to patrol the border with Sweden.[175]

Unintended consequences

The Troms Police District have recently stated that they believe that, as a consequence of the new measures implemented by the government to assist businesses and individuals during the coronavirus crisis, there is now a greater risk of undeclared work, exploitation of the lay-off rules and a greater opportunity to evade payments. Troms Police district said some businesses and individuals may be taking advantage of the Norwegian welfare society and benefit system for their own personal gain at this time of crisis.[176] However, this seems to be an isolated worry, as most businesses are actually facing stricter-than-usual processes to access benefits and loans.[177]

Longer-term considerations

Funding

A number of police forces expressed concern about the costs of handling the pandemic in the context of an already tight police budget, especially after the crisis will be over.[178] The Norwegian Justice Minister recently promised to fight for as many resources as possible in the police and judicial field in the future.[179]


Contact

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