Since the Breivik massacre last year, Norwegian police have been reluctant to admit that they could have responded better. Until today.
Norwegian police apologized for the first time on Thursday for not responding quickly enough to a youth camp shooting massacre in July that left 69 people dead. Police officials admitted to a catalogue of oversights and mishaps that prevented them from acting more quickly, when presenting the results of an internal evaluation at a press conference.
"On behalf of the Norwegian police I would like to apologize that we did not succeed in apprehending the attacker earlier," Police Director Oeystein Maeland told reporters.
"Every minute was a minute too long. It is a heavy burden to know that lives could have been spared if the assailant had been stopped earlier," Maeland added.
Oslo's special forces took around an hour to get to the scene of the crime by car and boat and stop the massacre that Anders Behring Breivik carried out at a Labor party youth camp on Utoya Island. The evaluation findings revealed that communication systems flaws and the breakdown of a boat transporting a special weapons team to the scene of the massacre, amongst other bungles, slowed the police response.
The evaluation also offered praise to police for making "sound tactical assessment based on the information available to them."
Decision to delay 'critical'
But the decision to wait for a weapons team during the crisis has raised questions about whether Norwegian police are sufficiently trained to deal with an "active shooter."
"The most important thing you can do in this type of situation is to send two or three armed police officers to confront the perpetrator as quickly as possible," said Magnus Ranstorp, a terror expert at the Swedish National Defense College.
Although he claims responsibility for the attack, Breivik denies that he is guilty of murder and terror. He says his victims were traitors to Norway because they supported liberal immigration policies and insists that he was acting in a bid to save Europe from "Muslim colonization."
Psychiatrists are currently evaluating Breivik's mental health to assess whether he should be sentenced to psychiatric care instead of prison. In either case, prosecutors say the 33-year-old Norwegian could be incarcerated for the rest of his life.
sej/rc (AP, Reuters)