These Four Charts Show Norway’s Nonexistent Level of Police Violence

Norwegian police almost never kill anyone.


In all of 2014, police in Norway fired their guns exactly twice, killing not a single person and injuring no one, according to statistics released by Norwegian police.

And last year is more the rule than the exception. The table below shows the number of people shot and killed by Norwegian cops between 2002 and 2014. Deaths at the hands of police are an almost unheard of phenomenon. Screen Shot 2015-07-08 at 3.50.48 PM

The number of people injured by police firearm use tells a similar story: Screen Shot 2015-07-08 at 3.51.44 PM

But the tables above are not indications that Norwegian police never use their weapons. The table below shows the number of times police have threatened individuals using their firearms. Screen Shot 2015-07-08 at 3.49.12 PM

Even though Norwegian police do brandish their weapons, they rarely fire them. The following table shows the number of times police have fired their guns. Screen Shot 2015-07-08 at 5.31.19 PM

In the wake of deadly police violence in Ferguson, Missouri, New York City, and North Charleston, South Carolina, the United States is engulfed in a fierce debate over the use of force by law enforcement officers. The frequent killings of unarmed citizens by police officers across the country have raised serious questions about whether U.S. cops are too willing to pull the trigger.

The lack of police firearm violence in Norway likely has to do with the fact that most Norwegian police are unarmed. Not so with Norway as a whole: With 31.3 firearms per 100 people, the country ranks 11th in the world in terms of the rate of gun ownership. But private ownership of a gun remains tightly regulated and is mostly limited to the country’s hunters.

Norwegian gun ownership is dwarfed by the United States’ staggering rate of 101.05 firearms per 100 people, a statistic that makes Americans the world’s top firearms owners. With so many guns floating around, it’s virtually impossible to imagine a scenario in which U.S. cops would ever agree to disarm like their Norwegian counterparts.

Because of a lack of data, it’s impossible to say whether U.S. police are more likely to fire their weapons once they are drawn, but this data from Norway at the very least speaks to the possibility that police work can be done in a far less violent way than often happens in the United States. On this, the anecdotal evidence of the deaths at the hands of police of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and Walter Scott are enough to illustrate the vast disparity between American and Norwegian police work.

The fact that Norwegian police release these statistics at all is also a remarkable phenomenon. Efforts to combat police violence in the United States have been hampered by the lack of reliable statistics. In the absence of government figures, media organizations have begun systematically tracking the issue. So far this year, 587 people have been killed by police, according to the Guardian’s count.

Photo credit: DANIEL SANNUM LAUTEN/AFP/Getty Images

Elias Groll is a staff writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @EliasGroll

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