by Randi Solhjell and Helene Gundhus
Ethnic profiling and discriminatory practices by the police in Norway have been raised as a concern since the 1980s. One overarching issue is the lack of information on stop and searches, both in terms of limited registration by the police and access to the system by externals. Due to a combination of civil society uprising, willingness by top politicians and leadership in the Norwegian police, Oslo police district is testing a receipt system for stop and search situations. It will be in place from 5 December and run until September 2023 and will be evaluated after that.
This is a result of a longer process. Prior to this pilot, the Oslo Police District have had a steering group, a reference group and a working group to confront and discuss what practices are problematic and what improvements are needed. These groups have been a mixture of police, civil society, legal experts and academics (including Helene Gundhus and Randi Solhjell). The working group also met with the police, civil society, and academics in Scotland, thanks to Megan O’Neill, to learn from their experience with stop and search practices.
The Norwegian police has accepted, to a certain degree, the need for changes in their occupational culture, practices, and training to reduce disproportionate controls of ethnic minorities. The question remains how the receipt system will be perceived and applied by Oslo police officers. It is not a secret that there is widespread skepticism in the police force.
Moreover, we are keen to know how and what data will be collected, and its availability to the evaluation process. The receipt system is voluntary, meaning that citizens may refuse or turn down the offer by the police. On the other hand, it is unclear whether the police will record the control, regardless of whether they issued a receipt.
Finally, a worry among many representatives of the different groups has been to treat in a sensitive manner the issue of recording ethnicity. In Norway, like many other European countries, this remains a problematic issue, both legally, for those experiencing being stopped, and scientifically, in terms of capturing useable statistics of potential disproportionate policing.
We will follow the process closely during the period it is tried out.
An official note by the police can be found here (in Norwegian).