In 2016, the Norwegian Police Federation (PF) warned its members against reporting. The request is still there.
Both the Police Act and Police Instructions impose a duty on police officers to report objectionable situations. The reason the PF discourages its members from speaking out is that the physical and psychological pressure is often too great.
On Wednesday this week, Dagbladet was able to tell about police investigator Vigdis Bollerud, who warned of what he believed to be objectionable conditions in the southeast police district in 2020.
His notice was repeatedly rejected by the police department. The same thing happened at the Norwegian Police Directorate (POD). One thing that Bollerud has reacted strongly to since the notice was sent out in 2020 is that the police chief has the last word on the matter.
According to the Norwegian Police Association, questions about competence in handling whistle-blowing cases in the police service are not an unknown issue.
– Unfortunately, we see a lack of impartiality or insufficient independence as a persistent problem in police whistle-blowing cases. If the person giving the notice or being re-notified doesn’t believe the employer is sufficiently independent, it often escalates the problem and makes a good solution impossible, says Ørjan Hjortland, deputy head of the police federation. , to Dagbladet.
He insisted that he was speaking on general terms.
– Totally wrong
However, after reading Dogbladet’s case about Bollarud, Hartland says his story is not an isolated one.
– Unfortunately, we often see that those who report something objectionable end up with a heavy burden and there are huge consequences for the whistleblower. Therefore, we are of the view that the manner in which the police service is handling notification cases is unfair.
Pollerut’s warning was aimed at leadership in the South-Eastern Police District, where Police Chief Ole B. Severud has been the chief executive since 2019.
Hjortland points out that it is the police chief who is responsible for the police district handling notification cases properly and satisfactorily.
– Hjortland says that if it is reported that cases are not being handled properly in the district, the responsible police chief and whoever the notification is sent to will be held accountable.
In this case, Sæverud himself – after declaring himself competent – decided that the warning should not be taken as a warning. The Appraisal Committee for Declaratory Cases also reached the same conclusion.
Hjortland basically says that the manager must assess his own ability. But – if the manager has the slightest doubt or understands that his independence will be a decisive factor – according to Hjortland, the manager should delegate the matter to a higher level.
– It is absolutely wrong for a manager to evaluate or investigate a notification about himself. The manager shall be disqualified and shall not participate in the processing or determination of the case. Such treatment cannot be trusted, he says.
Inspector General of Police Sæverud presented statements from the Vice President of the Norwegian Police Association. Here’s his take on the matter:
– The first warning of the case was not considered against me but for the investigation of criminal cases involving her. After that, my capacity was considered as POD. They decided I was not incompetent and stuck with that assessment.
Change is needed
– Do you think there is a need to change the procedures regarding arbitration in declaratory cases?
– We are clear that there is a need for an independent notification representative with adequate qualifications and sufficient resources to investigate cases expeditiously and efficiently. By monitoring and reporting whistleblowers, the ombudsman finds objectionable conditions in policing, making it safe and sound.
Hjortland emphasizes that the company is completely dependent on employees reporting errors and deficiencies they find in the workplace. The current situation — with officials avoiding speaking out for fear of their own jobs and not being sufficiently independent in handling many whistle-blowing cases — is therefore unsustainable, according to Hjortland.
– In particular, we believe this applies to the police service, which administers power and authority on behalf of the community. Neither police nor society can tolerate a culture of fear where police officers fail to report objectionable situations. Ultimately, this will challenge citizens’ legal certainty, says Hjortland:
– We have confirmed the decision that notification to the Norwegian police is not justified. We are fully aware that this is a very serious condition, but cannot offer any other advice based on what we see.
– Far from the target
However, the union feels that the Ministry of Justice and Emergency Management has taken the issue seriously, and efforts are currently being made to address the request for an independent representative.
– We have been working with our own employer for a long time to carry out an assessment and review of how whistle-blowing cases are handled in the police service. Such evaluation work is currently underway, and we expect it to lead to important and necessary changes to whistleblowers, whistleblowers, and the culture of disclosure within the agency, says Hartland.
Vigdis Bollerud’s announcement mentions several criminal cases. The POD has forwarded these parts of the notice to the Bureau of Police Affairs, which already has several cases under consideration. They have also handled criminal cases in the past, but they were dismissed.
– Employer recognition that the person in question acquires whistleblower status is a step in the right direction. But you’re way off the mark, Hartland says:
– You still need to examine what is being reported and evaluate it independently. It can be challenging to have so many decision makers involved in things. Someone else – fresh and independent – must handle the cases so that people can trust the investigation.
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