Norwegian police students’ attitudes towards armament

AuthorSilje Bringsrud Fekjær,Jon Strype
Date01 September 2015
Publication Date01 September 2015
PSM596476 182..188
International Journal of
Police Science & Management
Norwegian police students’ attitudes
2015, Vol. 17(3) 182–188
ª The Author(s) 2015
towards armament
Reprints and permission:
DOI: 10.1177/1461355715596476
Silje Bringsrud Fekjær
Centre for the Study of Professions, Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences and Norwegian Police
University College, Oslo, Norway
Jon Strype
Norwegian Police University College, Oslo, Norway
Whether the police should routinely carry firearms is an ongoing debate in Norway. Although the police can carry
weapons under special circumstances and currently are temporarily armed, the normal situation for the police in
Norway is to store firearms in sealed cases in their police cars until armament orders are given by the police chief. In
this study, we examine attitudes towards routine police armament among Norwegian police students. First, we
investigate the distribution of these attitudes among the students, and then we study possible factors influencing their
views on the matter. Specifically, we ask how gender, educational background, career plans and perceptions of police
work influence their attitudes about armament. Our study is based on survey data from the research project
Recruitment, Education and Careers in the Police (RECPOL). Our sample included one cohort of students from the
Norwegian Police University College graduating in 2013 (N ¼ 513). Students were divided on the armament question,
with roughly one third in favour of armament, one third against and one third undecided. The results of multinomial
logistic regression analyses show that men are more likely than women to be in favour of armament, rather than being
against. However, the gender difference is largely explained by differences in career plans and perceptions of the
police role. Students who foresee a police career in patrol work and have an autonomous, non-legalistic perception of
the police role are more likely to prefer armament.
Police students, police recruits, attitudes, use of force, armament
Submitted 28 May 2015, accepted 26 Jun 2015
whether and when the Norwegian police force will be per-
manently armed remains an unsettled question.
From an international perspective, having routinely
In this article, we explore Norwegian police students’
unarmed police is an exception. Only five countries have
attitudes towards armament and whether this attitude is
chosen not to equip patrol officers routinely with firearms:
influenced by gender, background, career plans or stu-
Norway, Ireland, New Zealand, Iceland and the United
dents’ view of the societal role of the police. The latter
Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) (Finstad, 2011a). The
includes both how dangerous police work is perceived
debate over whether the Norwegian police should remain
routinely unarmed has been extensive (Finstad, 2011a;
Hendy, 2014). The current Norwegian government is in
Corresponding author:
favour of armament and the police force has been temporar-
Silje Bringsrud Fekjær, Centre for the Study of Professions, Oslo and
ily armed since November 2014, the reason being a per-
Akershus University College of Applied Sciences, Oslo, Norway.
ceived heightened level in the risk of terrorism. However,

Fekjær and Strype
to be by the students, and their attitudes towards non-
on 22 July 2011, when a right-wing terrorist killed 77 civi-
legalistic police work. The analyses are based on survey
lians in Norway (Politiforum, 2012).
data from all Norwegian police students graduating in
2013 (N ¼ 513).
Previous research and theoretical
In a comprehensive review, Klahm et al. (2014)
conclude that police use of force is an ill-defined concept
in previous research and clearly demonstrate how and why
As future police officers, police students are attempting to
this concept is difficult to measure. Attitudes towards the
grasp what they perceive as the culturally shared attitudes
use of force may be related to a broad range of police
and beliefs of the police service they are about to enter
behaviour. We have focused here on the most serious level
(Chan et al., 2003; Van Maanen, 1976). Thus, to predict
of force, namely, the use of firearms. Furthermore, within
their attitudes towards the use of force, one should pay
a routinely unarmed police service, it is highly relevant to
attention to the attitudes in the police service. However,
investigate attitudes towards a possible future change in
police students are also influenced by their study environ-
armament policy. An extensive body of research covers
ment, which provides diverse views on policing roles. In
officers’ attitudes towards police use of force (Ingram
other words, police students’ attitudes are influenced by
et al., 2014; Klahm and Tillyer, 2010; Paoline and Terrill,
at least two cultures: occupational culture(s) and university
2011). These studies use diverse measures of attitudes
culture(s), in addition to the personal views and beliefs they
towards the use of force, such as how officers would react
bring to their police training (Petersson, forthcoming).
to hypothetical situations.
Building on Van Maanen’s (1975) hypothesis that police
Because attitudes towards armament represent a con-
recruits pass through developmental stages during their
crete and easy-to-measure concept, we believe that this is
early careers, Haarr (2005) claims that recruits will experi-
a new and interesting approach to the debate on how to
ence conflict and dissonance when facing the police culture
measure attitudes towards instruments of power and the use
and occupational environment.
of force. The Norwegian situation in which armament is
In 1978, Van Maanen described the self-image of U.S.
intensively debated provides us with an opportunity to
police officers as primarily law enforcers, engaged in an
explore how gender, background, career plans and views
ongoing struggle with those who upset the just order of the
on the role of the police influence police opinions on this
regime. It is crucial to demonstrate police authority in cases
important instrument of police power.
in which it is challenged. Similar views are expressed by
The year 2013 was a crucial point for...

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