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Police Use of Firearms a Constant?--The Swedish and Norwegian Experience (From Policing in Central and Eastern Europe: Dilemmas of Contemporary Criminal Justice, P 228-244, 2004, Gorazd Mesko, et al., eds. -- See NCJ-207973)

NCJ Number
Johannes Knutsson
Date Published
September 2004
17 pages

This study examined data on the police use of firearms in Sweden and Norway for the periods 1985-2002 (Sweden) and 1990-2002 (Norway).


In 1965, the Swedish police force became regularly armed with a service weapon. The Norwegian police force, on the other hand, is not regularly armed; officers are armed by order of the police chief, which includes standing orders that state the circumstances under which officers may arm themselves. Arms are either stored in police stations or may, in the case of handguns, be stowed unloaded in sealed bags in patrol cars. Sweden maintains data on events in which officers fire shots in the line of duty. Norway includes data not only on incidents in which shots are fired but also when firearms have been unholstered and made ready for use in a situation perceived as threatening. In Sweden from 1985 to 2002, the annual number of incidents in which officers fired shots has varied from 19 to 35. In May 1999, two police officers who were pursuing three bank robbers exchanged fire, and both officers were killed with their own service weapons. There was no clear evidence that police shooting incidents increased after these officers were killed. Incidents where police have shot at civilians with the intent to kill them has been extremely rare in Sweden. The most frequent reason for Swedish officers to shoot their weapons is in self-defense. In Norway between 1990 and 2001, police have increasingly brandished their firearms without firing them, with but a slight increase in 2001 and a significant decrease in 2002. The increase was apparently spurred by the shooting deaths of two police officers by a mentally ill man in 1997. Over this same period, however, the number of times officers actually fired their weapons remained relatively stable. 3 tables, 8 figures, and 2 references