Author:Robert Hanser, Nathan Moran

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Official country name: Kingdom of Norway

Capital: Oslo

Geographic description: Northernmost country on the Scandinavian Peninsula, bordering the North Sea

Population: 4,593,041 (est. 2005)


The earliest traces of a legal system in Norway existed over 1,000 years ago. This institution was known as the Allting and was a public gathering of yeomen, who convened to settle disputes and make laws for the local district. During the late thirteenth century regional laws were ultimately consolidated into one coherent codification scheme. This was later followed by a second major codification of Norwegian law that took place in 1687, during a period when Norway was ruled by Denmark. On dissolution of the union with Denmark because of the close of the Napoleonic Wars, Norway adopted a constitution on May 17, 1814. This constitution established Norway as a parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy.

The first comprehensive penal code was enacted in 1842. This was replaced by the General Civil Penal Code of May 22, 1902. Since this time, the penal code remains, though it has been greatly modified through amendments over time. Rules on criminal procedure were first codified in 1887. This statute was replaced by the Act on Rules of Judicial Procedure in Penal Cases, which became official on January 1, 1986. The Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Act continue to be the two main laws governing the civil administration of criminal justice in Norway today.

Structure and Organization

There are five police regions, among which are fifty-four 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.

The police force is administered directly by the Ministry of Justice and Police. It is also subordinate to the Public Prosecution Authority when investigating or prosecuting criminal cases. The police commissioners and their immediate subordinates are ultimately headed by the director general; the director general, in turn, is appointed by, and directly accountable to, the king, independent of the Ministry of Justice.

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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. As a police officer, a sheriff is accountable to the local police commissioner. There are several special units to the police force, all of which are administered centrally. These include the National Bureau of Crime Investigation (Kriminalpolitisentralen—also known as Kripos), the Police Security Service (Politiets Overvkingstjeneste), the Police Computing Service (Politiets Datatjeneste), the Police Equipment Service (Politiets Materielltjeneste), and the Mobile Police (Utrykningspolitiet). There is also a small specialist antiterror squad based in Oslo.

Furthermore, police are considered separate from the military branch of the government, making it a truly civilian-based form of social control. Similar to other countries, the police can, and sometimes do, seek the assistance of the military. Such assistance may be obtained during times of natural disaster or state emergency. Also, in times when human and physical resources are not adequate for a given task, the police have been known to call on the military for assistance when dealing with a given problem. In these instances military personnel involved in such operations fall under the command of the civilian police and are likewise accountable for their behavior under the same codes that govern civilian police actions.

Principal Agencies and Divisions

There are five police regions, among which are fifty-four police districts. The districts are led by police commissioners, who have as their immediate subordinates, deputy police commissioners, assistant commissioners, and superintendents. 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. It should be noted that in Norway a sheriff is accountable to the local police commissioner of that district. Lastly, the national police have primary responsibility for internal security, but in times of crisis, such as internal disorder or natural catastrophe, the police may call on the military forces for assistance. In such circumstances the military forces are always under police authority. The civilian authorities maintain effective control of the security forces.

Police at Work

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. Various local and district departments indicate that police at work in Norway engage in the following activities in roughly the following proportions. With direct police-related work, it is estimated that roughly 40 to 50 percent of their time is devoted to public service, investigation of crimes, crime prevention activities, traffic duty, immigration control, rescue services and licensing tasks related to business operations and social events, and other routine police work.

Public Service

Traffic duty naturally consists of speed surveillance and traffic regulation among the general populace. The police also enforce safety belt controls. The police do have primary responsibility for enforcing laws that pertain to driving while under the influence of alcohol. In addition, Norwegian police initiate, lead and coordinate all operations regarding accidents and hostile situations.

Investigative work consists of investigations of all criminal offenses such as those of violence, those for profit, and drug-related and property crimes. Of course, officers do investigate fire-related scenes and accidents as well. The police are also involved in crime prevention efforts. This includes education components within their school systems as well as direct actions against target groups, special environments, and different specific types of crime.

Roughly 20 to 30 percent of their work has to do with the exercise of civil duties. Particularly time consuming is the role of enforcement officers during force auction sales, the return of stolen property, cases of indebtedness, the announcement of summons and sentences, and so forth. Other duties may include dealing with the estates of deceased persons and the registering of those estates. The remaining 20 percent of their work typically involves administrative functions on a day-today basis.

Police-Community Relations

To maintain effective police-community relations in Norway, several mechanisms have been designed to restrain power, to avoid misconduct, and to keep police personnel in line and accountable. One of these mechanisms is to ensure thorough and independent investigation of complaints filed against police personnel. Special Investigatory Bodies, organizationally independent of the police and subordinate to the director general of public prosecution (Riksadvokaten), investigates complaints against the police in Norway. Each of these bodies has three members: a chairman with qualifications equal to a Supreme Court judge, a lawyer with a minimum of two years practicing criminal law, and finally a member with significant experience in police investigation. One substitute is assigned to each of the members of these bodies. The primary mandate of the Special Investigatory Bodies is to investigate all complaints alleging that police have breached criminal law in carrying out their duties. Furthermore, they also investigate all cases in which police actions have resulted in a person's death and/or serious

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bodily injury, irrespective whether or not a complaint was made. General complaints not in breach of criminal law are handled internally while special committees attached to each police district handle allegations of police acting in breach of discipline. Finally, after concluding their investigation, the Special Investigatory Bodies make recommendations about further action to the state attorney who then makes a...

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