OSLO/GARDERMOEN: Øystein Mæland has stepped down from his post immediately as Norway’s national police director following a storm of criticism since last year’s twin attacks by Anders Behring Breivik.
Minister of Justice Grete Faremo announced the news to NRK this evening. Opposition politicians have welcomed the move.
Meanwhile, today’s hastily mustered national police chief meeting provided more statements than answers.
Øystein Mæland had summoned the country’s top police officials to the Radisson Blu Airport Hotel. After the meeting, several police chiefs confirmed they still have confidence in Mæland. They stated that today’s gathering was a starting point in a new phase of police culture and organisation in light of the 22 July Commission’s report.
Øystein Mæland said at the press conference, "it is important for me that we are a better police and have support. The police organisation is one of dependency and good and close contact."
A recent poll has shown that 39 percent of Norwegians answered they are losing faith in the police. 9 percent have none.
When asked by The Foreigner if restructuring of the force goes right to the heart of the organisation, Mæland answered that, "the Commission’s report laid a good foundation for us to work from.”
“I have been concerned with leadership from day one in my position as Chief Director and there is an order to the police, but we are determined to work on improving it. There are measures that we need to take to improve confidence in the police and these are what we intend to work on in the future."
Mæland added that "From my side, the meeting has been very good in solving problems that are both short and long term...All police chiefs will use the 'leader platform', that has been available from spring this year, which is a framework to how we work. We need strong focus on leadership."
He commented directly on the 22 July Commissions report, saying, "All agree on the seriousness of the Commission’s report, and all are in agreement that this is something we need to work further on and in a process that works within the police. All district police chiefs have today received their homework, It’s important for us to work as a team and have a shared understanding."
When asked which of the 15 of outstanding measures pointed out by the 22 July Commission he will deal with first, Mæland replied, "15 out of 17 measures is not correct. Our own evaluations are different. I've seen how it can be quicker. Everything should have happened yesterday.”
“The measures are my task and the focus has been, and will be that they are my responsibility."
Mæland declined to go into detail as to which measures are short-term and which are long in response to The Foreigner’s question. Instead, he said that "building public confidence in the police is a long term perspective...there are several things that have a short term perspective. Some of these measures are things that we can do ourselves whilst others are much bigger and mean that we need to address the structure of the organisation."
Two police chiefs subsequently confirmed Mæland’s remarks and intentions about building public confidence and organisational structure.
Chief of Vestfinnmark police Torbjørn Aas told The Foreigner, "we whole-heartedly accept the Commission’s report and it was clear at the outset of the meeting today that the police actions on 22 July are something that we have to live with.”
"In my district of Vestfold, we have started to really tackle the issues that we see for us, these are in terms of our culture, our leadership skills, the police personnel, and resources. We know that we have to build confidence and we will do this in a variety of measures - some that will be short-term and other long-term." He did not go in to detail about a time-frame or list any of the measures.
Chief of Oslo police Anstein Gjengedal said, "there are things we need to work on, it is important that we work together: this is a team project. When I look at our culture [of the police]...we have loyal police officers: we all work together."
Gjengedal also touched on the notion of putting ideas into to practise rather than just talking about them.
"We have a platform of leadership [in the police organisation] which needs to be taken out of its format and used daily, not just used like a Party speech.”