The murderous rampage of Anders Behring Breivik could have been prevented or lessened if it was not for some serious shortfalls in the Norwegian Police response, according to scathing media reports circling in the country.
The police are receiving a barrage of criticism in the national press for allowing the 32 year-old right-wing extremist to shoot indiscriminately for around an hour on the island of Utoya, shortly after setting a bomb in Oslo on 22nd July. The incidents are the worse attacks to hit Norway since the Second World War, leaving 77 people dead.
It has been revealed that one of the reasons it took officers almost an hour to reach the island youth camp was because their boat was so overloaded they had to move into two different vessels when the motor stopped and water started coming inboard. At the time, Sissel Hammer, the Honefoss Police Chief, said the response was delayed because, “The personnel have to be notified, they must put on protective gear, arm themselves, and get out to the area.”
Chief of Staff for Oslo Police, Johan Fredriksen, has also admitted that, despite the quickest route being just 675 metres, they took an “inappropriately” longer course of 3.64 km, according to NRK. He refused, however, to say why this route was chosen, praising the officers for “making the best out of a difficult situation”, and pointing out that there are no “permanent resources for all of Norway’s inland fjords”. He told the news agency: “The optimal solution is rarely present at the time. We must choose what is available based on actual conditions there and then.”
Despite an anti-terrorism exercise in 2006 revealing that there were inadequate communication systems in place in Utoya, orders to many specially trained police officers were never received on 22nd July. “This [improving the flow of information] will be a challenge, as it has been with major incidents worldwide. Relaying the situation to all those necessary and communicating well in real-time has been shown to be, is, and will be an enormous test,” said Fredriksen.
Officers also chose to drive to the boat to the island after receiving the first reports of the massacre, as the police helicopter team were all controversially on holiday at the time. It has since emerged, however, that a Sea King rescue helicopter, capable of carrying up to 10 people, was available in Oslo. It could have reached Utoya in just 10 minutes, perhaps saving dozens of lives.
Talking to TV2, Fredriksen downplayed the oversight. “We doubt this would have really affected the timeline. It was health personnel that were responsible for it, not the police,” he said.
Despite reporting for duty after the explosion in Oslo’s government district, the Sea King helicopter crew were told they were not needed by police personnel, according to the broadcaster. “I wasn’t aware of this. The decision was taken in the heat of battle, and considering whether this was correct will have to be done in retrospect,” Fredriksen said.