Seminar: Policing the Nordic Countries in the 21st Century

The Young Nordic Police Research Network suggests this seminar as a starting point to explore whether there is a Scandinavian policing exceptionalism. In this seminar, fifteen researchers provide comparative and contradictory perspectives on a range on police and police research themes.

Policing the Nordic Countries in the 21st Century

Contemporary Issues, Perspectives and Challenges

12-13 February 2015

Young Nordic Police Research Network
Faculty of Law, University of Oslo

The Nordic countries have had close relations over the centuries. To a great extent they function based on the same ideas and principles, both as nation states and welfare states. There are of course also differences, for example the variance in connections with Europe. Denmark entered the European Union in 1972, while Norway and Iceland are (still) not members. Trends in police and policing, however, are often similar in the Nordic countries and take place almost simultaneously, as for example with police reforms legislated concurrently in the early 20th century, and again now, around a hundred years later. John Pratt first introduced the concept of ‘Scandinavian exceptionalism’ in 2008, referring to the low imprisonment rates and humane prison conditions in the Nordic countries. In this seminar, we ask: Is there a Nordic exceptionalism within the field of policing? What are the similarities and differences, how or what may we learn from these – and what role may the Nordic countries have vis-a-vis each other and towards the EU and the international society in general in the field of policing?

Policing is so many things. To begin the discussion on whether there is a Scandinavian policing exceptionalism or not, the Young Nordic Police Research Network suggests this seminar as a starting point. The seminar brings together 15 people who provide comparative and contradictory perspectives on a range on police and police research themes. Through the seminar, we set the Scandinavian exceptionalism as a leitmotif, which also will be discussed in the seminar’s final session.

The seminar is open to all, and all are welcome to participate in the discussions and comment on the presented papers. The final session is followed by tapas and refreshments, to which all are invited.


Please give notice by 30 January to Øyvind Henden ( if you will be attending the seminar, and whether you will have lunch one or both days, and participate in the tapas session Friday afternoon.

Questions may be directed to Synnøve Ugelvik at e-mail ( or cell (+47 926 17 221).


Program Overview

The venue for both seminar days is the meeting room at 2nd floor, Domus Bibliotheca, Department of Public and International Law, Faculty of Law, University of Oslo,
Karl Johans gate 47.






Detailed Program


Day 1:

13:00 – 13:10 Welcome and Introduction

Synnøve Ugelvik

13:10 – 14:20 Comparative perspectives: Police and public prosecution in the Nordic countries

Chair: Dr Runar Torgersen, Senior Public Prosecutor, Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions

Prosecution and the Police in Finland and Sweden - A Comparative Study

Julia Jansson, PhD Candidate, University of Helsinki

The study will examine the differences and similarities between the relationship of prosecution and police in two neighbouring states, Finland and Sweden. The starting point is the rather complicated history of Finnish prosecution, which led to the creation of the new central administration agency of the Finnish prosecution service, the office of the Prosecutor General in 1997.

Unlike in many other countries, in Finland prosecution and the police are completely separate entities. They are working under the mandate of two different ministries, the police under the Ministry of the Interior and the prosecution service under the Ministry of Justice. In Sweden, the prosecution and the police are both located under the authority of the Ministry of Justice. The prosecutor in Sweden also has a much greater role in steering police investigations than in Finland.

Finland looked towards Sweden for an example and model when renewing the whole structure of its prosecution service in 1996. A thorough discussion took place before the Finnish model was created. This debate regarding the reorganising of the prosecution that took place before this reform will be given a central role in this study. Why was a similar model to that of Sweden chosen? Why did Finland not acquire the Swedish model in its entirety? What should be the relationship and the balance of power between prosecution and the police is an ongoing discussion in many countries of the world. Researching the debate that took place in Finland will shed light on what were then seen as the strengths and weaknesses of the Finnish and Swedish models. By examining these arguments, the study will offer new viewpoints on the discussion concerning best practices in organising the relationship between prosecution and the police.


Preventive use of covert coercive measures in the protection of national security – comparing the legislation of the Scandinavian countries

Ingvild Bruce, PhD candidate, the Hague

Over the past decades, the global security situation, and in particular the increase in terrorist attacks, have led national authorities´ to redefine their approach to the protection of national security. The focus has increased on preventing such attacks at the outset, for example by expanding the responsibilities and competences the police. Some have even argued that we are witnessing a development towards an official framework of preventive measures - «a preventive justice system». In the Scandinavian countries, the police´ access to covert coercive measures has traditionally been limited to criminal investigations of very serious crime, and the threshold for allowing new measures has been high. However, the preventive endeavour is also evident in these countries. Since 2005, the police´ access to covert coercive measures, such as wiretapping and audio surveillance, with a preventive aim has been introduced and/or expanded in Norwegian, Swedish and Danish legislations. Such measures entail comprehensive interferences with individual´s private lives at an exceptionally early stage of what may or may not become e.g. a terrorist attack. This paper analyses and compares the content of and reasoning behind these three sets of legislation. It identifies both theoretical and practical problems that the legislations gives rise to, and investigates whether any of the states have found preferable solutions in light of certain basic rule of law and human rights standards.


14:35 – 15:45 Borders, Risks and Cooperation

Chair: Associate Professor Johan Boucht, Dept. of Public and Intl’ law, Univ. of Oslo

Cooperation amongst asset recovery agencies in the EU

Dr Colin King, School of Law, University of Manchester

There is now an unprecedented international regulatory focus on ‘dirty money’ – particularly the financial proceeds of criminal activity (eg the Strasbourg Convention; the Warsaw Convention; the proposed EU Directive on money laundering). The proceeds of crime can be seized using conviction-based or non-conviction-based asset recovery powers. With the former, a criminal conviction is a pre-requisite therefore the procedural safeguards of the criminal process are maintained. Non-conviction-based (NCB) asset recovery is much more controversial, in that assets can be seized in the absence of a criminal conviction. There is an extensive literature on conviction-based and non-conviction-based asset recovery, though much less is written on the policing agencies that enforce such powers. This paper will explore issues relating to the structure and composition of asset recovery agencies; police powers; and transparency and accountability. Discussion will focus, in particular, on difficulties relating to cooperation amongst asset recovery agencies in the EU, drawing on interviews conducted with these agencies.


Third Party’ Status in EU Policing and Security: Comparing the Position of Norway with the UK after the Lisbon Treaty

Dr Saskia Hufnagel, School of Law, Queen Mary University of London

European Union (EU) police and justice cooperation is based on EU legal frameworks. Some of these frameworks can be identified to have an important impact on EU policing practice both generally and on cooperation regimes with the UK in particular. The UK involvement in EU police and justice cooperation could therefore potentially be endangered by the UK opt-out with regard to the Lisbon Protocol 36. Article 10(4) of this Protocol provides that the UK may, at any time up to 31 May 2014, choose not to accept the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the European Union and the enforcement powers of the Commission in relation to pre-Lisbon measures. All former policing and criminal justice instruments adopted under the 'third pillar' that have not been amended, repealed or replaced since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty will cease to apply to the UK in the event of the opt-out. With regard to important EU agencies, such as Europol and Eurojust, the UK would then only be able to acquire third party status. Similarly, in relation to EU legislation enabling the establishment of joint investigation teams, the UK could only be involved as a non-treaty member. Whether this would detrimentally hinder the UK’s participation in criminal justice cooperation in the EU will be discussed in this presentation with a view to Norway’s position in EU law enforcement. As Norway has long standing practice as a close third party, its experiences could be beneficial for the UK in the event that an opt-in to crucial EU legal frameworks will not be granted by EU member states.


16:00 – 17:45 Policing Insiders and Outsiders

Chair: Professor Katja Franko, Dept. of Criminology and Sociology of Law, Uni. of Oslo

Migration and trust in the police:  evidence from the Crime Survey of England and Wales

Dr Ben Bradford, Centre for Criminology, University of Oxford

It is commonly assumed that immigrants to a country such as the UK will evince lower levels of trust in the police. There often appear good reasons for such an assumption. Migrant communities have been thought ‘difficult to police’; minority groups frequently experience problematic relationships with police; migrants from the global south to the global north, or from eastern to western Europe, may have been brought up in countries with extremely corrupt and/or repressive police regimes. The literature on trust would also suggest that migrants will find it harder, on average, to trust, because they may lack sufficient information to make trust judgements or because they may not feel they share a ‘moral community’ with police. Yet there has been very little empirical investigation into this issue, either in the UK or elsewhere. In this paper data from the Crime Survey for England and Wales are used to explore the relationship between immigration and trust in the police. Analysis suggests trust is actually higher among immigrants than among the native born population, although there is important variation by date of first arrival. Some, but not all, of this variation can be explained by the accrual of negative experiences of policing. The findings therefore resonate with recent work that, among other things, has demonstrated a negative association between immigration and crime. The paper concludes with some reflection on the implications for theoretical understandings of the nature of trust in the police.

The development of the Norwegian Immigration Police

Sigmund Book Mohn, PhD Candidate - Department of Criminology and Sociology of Law, University of Oslo

I will present a brief history of the immigration police function in Norway and the parallel Development of its legal Powers within the immigration law. As with continental European police forces the Norwegian immigration police came to be as an integrated part of the national police and related both to high and low policing aspects. Although internal border policing as well as crime related immigration control is often portrayed as recent development in many countries, the Norwegian case show that these where important traits already from the birth of modern immigration control at the beginning of the 20th Century.


Why Was the «Gypsy Question» a Police Matter? – A Comparison of Police Practices in Germany and Norway during the 20th century

Chalak Kaveh, PhD Candidate - Department of Archaeology, Conservation and History, University of Oslo

The European governmental policies against the “Gypsies” have had some communalities of which the role of the police is one: The Police have traditionally dealt with the “Gypsy” groups and in this way practiced the governmental policies against the group.

This paper explores the possible reasons for the central role designated to the police in regard of the “Gypsies”. The explanations here vary. On the one hand the society and governmental criminalization of the group can be pointed out as a reason. According to this position dealing with the “Gypsies” were first and foremost a police matter because they were, allegedly, born criminals and anti-socials. Another point of view would rather stress the role and nature of the police methods and mentality as an explanation. It is, according to the latter, the police’s overall ambitions of control which historically have made the “Gypsy question” a police matter.

Although the answer lays somewhere in between these two extremities, such a research question firstly sheds light on the history of the European “Gypsy” groups and the governmental policies against them. Secondly the comparative perspective gives us insight in the history of the German and Norwegian police.

Day 2:

09:15 – 10:25 Police Research I

Chair: Professor Heidi Mork Lomell, Dept. of Criminology and Sociology of Law, Uni.Oslo

Developments in Systematic Social Observation (SSO) of police officers – technological and methodological implications of a mobile app-based strategy

Dr Chris Giacomantonio, RAND Europe

Systematic social observation (SSO) of police officers has been used for almost twenty years as a way to measure specific aspects of police activities in the field. Previous studies by Mastrofski and colleagues (e.g. 1998) in the US context, as well as more recently by Schulenberg (2012) in the Canadian context, have relied on paper-based data collection methods in patrol settings. Studies by Stott et al (2008) and Adang and Cuvelier (2001) in football crowd contexts have instead relied on verbal dictation and subsequent manual coding of field observations. In both of these approaches, data collection is time-consuming and often conspicuous, which may lead to inaccuracies in data as well as increased observer effects on the setting in which research takes place.

This presentation examines a mobile app-based approach to SSO developed for a recent study of mounted police in the UK (Giacomantonio, Bradford, Davies and Martin 2014). Using mobile phones in the field allowed researchers to blend into public settings as well as promote accuracy in data collection. The app allowed for types of data to be recorded, such as image data and location data, which would otherwise have been complicated to collect with non-digital methods. The cloud-based platform further allowed for immediate data entry thus removing the work burden involved in data entry, and such an approach may provide researchers with an opportunity to yield rich structured observational data with limited time and resource expenditure. Yet, the app also presented some methodological, technological and ethical issues that need to be explored. While the approach proved very useful in specific aspects of this study, the potential drawbacks of the approach should also be considered before researchers attempt a similar observational strategy.

Preventing, Interdicting, and Mitigating Extremism: using the scripting approach to understand and defend against lone actor extremist events

Gali Perry, Institute of Criminology, the Hebrew University

Lone wolf terrorist - a person who acts on his or her own without direct orders from an organization, has become one of the central terrorism threats and policing challenges for western democracies in the last few decades. While earlier studies have mainly focused on the terrorist – his profile, psychology and motivation, very little has been done to describe the Modus Operandi of lone wolf attacks, and how it differs from organization affiliated terrorism. The present study applies the principals of routine activity theory to analyse lone wolves terrorist attacks, in order to better understand the four pillars of opportunity in the lone wolf context: Target, Weapon, Tools/Training and Facilitating Conditions. The situational crime prevention approach can help law enforcement officials to identify local acts of terrorism and their immediate situational conditions, which can both augment and restrict potential attacks.


10:40 – 11:50  Police Research II

Chair: Dr Maren E. Kleiven, Assistant Chief of Police, National Criminal Investigation Service Norway (KRIPOS)

Research ‘on’, ‘with’, ‘by’ and ‘for’ the police

Matthew Davies, PhD Candidate, Centre for Criminology, University of Oxford/ Researcher, RAND Europe

In the context of a global economic downturn, there is increasing pressure for research to be conducted directly with end users. This has been particularly accentuated in policing in the UK and US, where the police are growingly acknowledging the importance of a more evidenced based approach to police work. In turn, there has been a surge towards more collaborative research between researchers and police professionals. This collaborative approach brings a series of advantages to the researcher, including better access to the field, opportunities for knowledge exchange, wider dissemination of results and greater policy impact. But simultaneously the researcher faces a number of challenges. There may be competing interests between partners, each with a different set of ideas about research questions, methods and output. What is more, research on an organisation (such as the police) with members of that same organisation may undermine the perceived objectivity of the research endeavour. In this session, I draw on recent research experience both on and with the police to highlight the important reflexive questions that should be asked by researchers studying the police. I use Brown’s (1996) typology of police ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders’ to delineate some of the methodological challenges – and potential solutions – to conducting objective, yet participatory research on the police.


Participatory research methods as a catalyser of better policing: using a consensus development process to develop an evidence-led training manual in the Israeli Border Police

Yael Litmanovitz, DPhil candidate, Centre for Criminology, University of Oxford

The last years have seen a rise in a ‘science for the police’, with many police organisations throughout the world recognizing the advantages of ‘evidence-based policing’ and collaborating with academia, even to the point of ‘embedding’ criminologists in their organizations. It appears that democratic countries with highly developed accountability mechanisms are more inclined to take this approach. The question of successful ‘knowledge transfer’ remains open: what collaboration processes facilitate bi-directional learning and change?

The paper will present the process of jointly developing a training manual with the Israeli Border Police. This was part of a three-year research project on democratic policing of protests that included several participatory elements. The paper outlines a model for developing evidence-led training or policies using a tailored consensus development method, which draws on Nominal Group Technique and Consensus Development Conferencing. This model was demonstrated as appropriate for the needs and characteristics of this police organization, and feasible despite little prior experience of such partnerships.

This paper proposes the use of participatory methodologies are a potent avenue for police research. These methods are both ethical and instrumental. They empower police officers, providing police organizations with tools to critically assess themselves, and may strengthen their commitment to providing more effective and just services to citizens. These methods can also aid more rigorous research, with higher chances for internal acceptability and a better chance for future implementation of policies. These results place police-academia partnership as a core catalyser of better policing, which may benefit both citizens and police officers.


12:20 – 13:30 Police Practices: Legitimacy and Trust

Chair: Professor Helene Oppen Gundhus, Norwegian Police University College

Techniques of Legitimation: The Narrative Construction of Backstage Legitimacy in the Norwegian Police Immigration Detention Centre

Dr Thomas Ugelvik, Department of Criminology and Sociology of Law, University of Oslo/ Department of Sociology, University of Tromsø

The exercise of coercive authority is both a defining characteristic of the police officer role, and potentially a morally ambiguous part of the work of embodying the long arm of the law. As Tankebe and Liebling (2013) state in the introduction to their recent book about Legitimacy and Criminal Justice, the recent interest in legitimacy within criminology has been primarily focused on procedural justice. Without denying that procedural justice is an important part of the whole, this paper will focus on the more informal behind-the-scenes or backstage narrative legitimation work that regularly go on wherever criminal justice officials meet over a meal, a cup of coffee or a cigarette. The backstage storytelling that detention center officers regularly engage in is seen as an example of everyday self-legitimation work that seems to be important for state representatives in general when they have to forcefully impose on people's lives. The paper describes some of the techniques employed at the local level, to solve the problems associated with an occupational role that regularly involves the breaking of important social norms.


Bouncers, Policing Assemblages and the War on Gangs in the Danish Nightlife

Dr Thomas Friis Søgaard, Centre of Alcohol and Drug Research, Aarhus University

Due to the influential welfare state, the ‘Nordic model of policing’ has traditionally been characterized by a strong state-organization and a reluctance to form public-private policing partnerships with the private security industry (Høigård 2011). As a consequence, Nordic research on policing has predominantly focused on state actors and only paid scant attention to private security actors or the formation of de facto policing networks and their implications. A form of state centrism in this way seems to inform much organization of as well as research on Nordic policing, making up a Nordic exception in a double sense. In an attempt to contribute to the existing Nordic research on recent policing developments, this paper suggests that much can be learned about the production of urban order and the reconfiguration of sovereignty in Nordic network societies, by exploring the subtle and at times informal formations policing assemblages, often co-existing alongside official rejections of formal public-private policing partnerships. Based on a one-year field work among bouncers in the city of Aarhus, Denmark, this paper outlines how the police-led ‘war on gangs’ as well as police efforts to turn the Danish nightlife into a no-go-zone for gang members, has led to the emergence informal ‘police-bouncer networks’. Rather than seeing the formation of nightlife policing networks as indicating a withdrawal of the state, I argue that the formation of informal collaborative relations between the police and bouncers has not only strengthened police/state influence over nightlife spaces. Paradoxically it has also led to a situation where the Private Property Right as well as bouncers’ hard bodies and use of violence have informally come to work for the practical realization of state-led governmental initiatives targeting criminal gang members.


13:45 – 14:55 Nordic Police Politics: What Should the Police be Doing, and Why?

Chair: Professor Paul Larsson, Norwegian Police University College

Continuity and change in the distinction between policing criminal law and police law in Scandinavia, ca. 1880-1914

Geir Heivoll, PhD Candidate, Norwegian Police University College

From the middle of the 19th century to the inter war period, the institutional basis for policing in the three Scandinavian countries, Norway, Denmark and Sweden, gradually changed in a profound and lasting way.

In this period it became increasingly evident that the traditional local policing was no longer capable of handling the rapid urbanization and industrialization, and the social problems and tensions that followed with these and other changes in the emerging modern Scandinavian societies.

One of the problems with the traditional police was connected to the police officers: the traditional police officers were too brute and unprofessional and had no education in being police officers – simply because there was no police education. This was now becoming a problem for policing, to such an extent that police education had to be established: at the very end of the 19th century short courses were introduced, and from the interwar period and after 1945, longer and more academically based education became the norm.  One outcome of this emergence of police education was eventually the rise of a new profession of police.

The question I will discuss in this paper, is what kind of political mandate this new profession of police was given; what kind of political normative basis the police profession was given when it emerged. Was policing understood along the same lines as policing had traditionally been understood, or were there any changes? If so, what kind of changes? In the paper these questions will be considered as questions regarding continuity and change in the distinction between policing criminal law and police law.


What to worry about: Comparing concerns in Norwegian police reform policy documents from the early 20th and 21st century

Dr Synnøve Ugelvik, Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)/ Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions

The police forces of Sweden, Denmark and Finland have all undergone relatively radical reforms during the past few years. After serious criticism of the Norwegian police in an evaluation following the 22/7 terrorist attack in Norway, reform work has been set in motion also there. Core characteristics of the reform work in all countries is among others the idea of improved efficiency through increased centralization. This paper constitutes a critical assessment of the reasons given for the 21st century police reforms in Norway. I assess the policy documents of the police reform in the early 20th century related to that of the present day to present a comparative analysis. The paper shows the remarkable resemblances between police and government concerns with a hundred year time-span. It offers suggestions of why the reforms take place, who influence the reforms and the contents of them, and whether and to what extent they symbolize a corrosion of the Nordic model of a high level of trust between the populations and the state.

Published Aug. 29, 2014 4:00 PM - Last modified Jan. 22, 2015 1:46 PM