On Tuesday, October 16th, 2012, the Illinois Tactical Officers Association, in conjunction with the Cook County Dept. of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, hosted personnel who responded to the bombing/active shooter incidents in Oslo, Norway and Utoya Island on 22 July 2011. Attendees were comprised of members of many different branches of Illinois law enforcement. Members of the National Guard were also in attendance, as well as police officers from other states.
ITOA President Jeff Chudwin and Executive Director of Homeland Security Michael Masters introduced the speakers, Knut Grini and Geir Rye. Knut has been a tactical officer since 2009 and an Acting Incident Commander since 2011. Geir has been on the National HRT (hostage rescue) / rope entry team since 2002.
The presentation's format was as follows: 1) Presentation of police in general in Norway 2) Oslo incident 3) Utoya island incindet 4) Criticism of response
PART 1 - POLICE IN NORWAY
Knut and Geir described the differences between law enforcement in the United States and in Oslo and listed some of the challenges Oslo officers face when responding to calls, such as lack of major highways and limited capabilities of air support.
There are 5 categories of police officers in Norway, which has a nationalized police system.
1 - HRT (Delta) 70 officers - 1000 hours training (showed video regarding tactics, live video demo). 8 weeks training, 1 week intro course, 1 year probation, can only be an operator for 10 years (used to), rule chaging now. Has to go in to work to get equipment, drive in from home and then to job, no take home car.
2 - Royal and Dignitary Protection
3 - Regional Tactical Response Units - 800 officers
4 - Ordinary Patrol
5 - Investigators/Detectives - not authorized to carry firearms
PART 2 - GOVERNMENT BUILDING EXPLOSION
(Surveillance video was shown of incident)
Both Knut and Geir were not on duty when the car bomb went off at the government building in Oslo. Knut was in the immediate area and responded to the building. He was providing medical attention to the wounded and described the multiple roles that police have to play during critical incidents. Geir was informed of the blast and went down to help as well. There were several erroneous reports by citizens as to the number of possible offenders and the physical description of the offenders. Other reports that ended up not bona fide of suspicious packages and persons kept emergency personnel occupied as well. The small force was smaller due to summer vacations and was keeping up as best they could under the circumstances. Communication was impaired due to incompatible radio systems in different parts of the nation.
When he was clearing the building, Knut needed head covering for safety reasons. He had to go to the fire station and get a helmet from them. Quick thinking, flexibility, and improvisation was essential to the operation. The Incident Commander was instrumental in coordination of resources. Streets and Sanitation was called in on his order to clear the debris from the streets so that responding paramedics and other first responders would not get flat tires. Geir spoke of the frustration of being on standby at the blast site because his team was waiting to be deployed to other locations if need be.
PART 3 - UTOYA ISLAND
Many hurdles stood in the way of an optimal response by Geir and his team members. Incorrect intelligence hindered the efforts of law enforcement on scene. Anders Breivik, the shooter/bomber, wore a police uniform to access the island, then killed children participating in a summer camp there. When Geir and his company arrived, people were too afraid to help them, thinking they were decoys as well. Equipment, including the boat and helicopter designated for police use, were insufficient for the level of response needed to an active shooter situation on an island. Geir though about what to say to the children about their injuries when he was tending to them, and decided to tell them the truth, directing them to focus their strength on survival and to listen to him. Knut and Geir reflected on the importance of communicating with family before responding to a critical incident so that your mind stays with the task at hand when you arrive on scene.
PART 4 - CRITICISM OF POLICE RESPONSE
At first, the people of Norway lauded the police as heroes. After a month, the tactics used and the response came under government scrutiny. Every move made was second guessed and dissected to see if there could have been a more optimal response. An effort is currently underway to evaluate firearms rules for law enforcement and improvements to equipment are being looked at.
As Knut and Geir stated, the response was the best it could have been with the information and equipment they had at the time. Lives were saved and the threat was taken into custody.
We thank Knut and Geir for sharing their thoughts with us about 22 July 2011.
Thank you Beata for a great review of the training!
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