International police cooperation will naturally lead to an increase in the improvement of human rights. – John Ståle Stamnes – Assistant National Police Commissioner at The Norwegian Police Directorate 

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Exclusive Interview with John Ståle Stamnes – Assistant National Police Commissioner at The Norwegian Police Directorate with Hatef Mohktar, Editor in Chief of The Oslo Times

International police cooperation will naturally lead to an increase in the improvement of human rights.

– John Ståle Stamnes – Assistant National Police Commissioner at The Norwegian Police Directorate

imagesWhat is the purpose of this meeting? I understand it is about border crossing and security issues?

“The meeting that has taken place in Oslo today is the Operational Committee within the Baltic Sea Task Force. The Baltic Sea Task Force is led by the personal representatives of the governments that share borders with the Baltic Sea. It is 12 countries: Poland, Germany, the Baltic states, the Nordic countries. Also Iceland is a part of the Baltic Sea Task Force. The operational committee’s mandate is to find ways to make the Baltic Sea region more secure meaning that it is a cooperation related to law enforcement, police and the coast guard. I would say the stronghold of the cooperation is that it has a regional focus, has a regional strategy and it is all about fighting organized crime together.”

Is this the first conference of its kind or one of many?

“It is one of many. This cooperation has been going on since 1996, and they are on a 2-year basis chairmanship so Norway has been the Chairman since 2013 and 14 and then Russia will take over the Chairmanship from 2015. It is all about trying to utilize all kinds of evidence of crime and see how we can combine this into an effective law enforcement tool.”

That was a good general overview. Are there any specific challenge points that you could address?

“Well this is the overview as you said, but when it comes down to organized crime, Norway is of course on the outskirts of this cooperation based on our location or geography. But we clearly see that we are influenced by organized crime moving from the southern part of Europe towards Norway and from Eastern Europe towards Norway, so for Norway as a country it is important to take part in a cooperation like this because we are able prevent crime before it reaches our border and before it reaches Norway.”

What are some of the factors for this crime coming north to Norway?

“There are many reasons, which are also quite complex. We see when it comes to itinerate criminal groups, mobile criminal groups who are somehow opportunist, they will steal and then travel home to sell what the steal. This crime consists of not very organized groups of criminals operating 2-3 together. While you also have the other form of organized crime which is much more organized and focused on legal business on the financial side, or any kind of crime which is profitable, and it is always a struggle to find the most efficient ways for Norway as one of the end stations for a lot of drugs. We are willing to put quite a lot of effort and resources at stropping this before it enters Norway. So if we are able to seize in the Atlantic Ocean on the way from South America to Europe a ship loaded with cocaine it will be better to stop the ship instead of fighting small-sale doses here in Europe.”

You have mentioned the drug trade. You may be aware that in the US there is a massive policy shift concerning the control of less strong drugs, like marijuana. Legalizing it, taxing it, controlling it through the state. At what point is that also something to consider in Norway to combat petty drug selling_.

“I think the legislation issue is hard to debate in Norway and also as law enforcement officers do what the politicians decide. I think the debate in Norway has been kept a live by a very few people, and you look at the challenges that we have with drugs compared to other countries, we have little crime. Drug use, and of course the result of drug use, which is illness, leads to crime and we need to be open to that because there are all sorts of strategies to get rid of it. But I do not see the discussion of legislation as relevant at this time.”

Concerning extremism, is there is some sort of link between extremism and organized crime?

“We clearly see that there is a link between organized crime, and not only the real serious crime, like you saw the terrorist attack in Algeria, where the main perpetrator was formerly known for cigarette smuggling and smaller offence trafficking. So I would say the relation to that is that our challenge is to see that organized crime is more interlinked with all kinds of activities and it is definitely something that police and all the World World needs to pay attention to.

Having said that, and based on a human rights issue, we strongly believe that by cooperating, not only will national police get better but also the rest of the police agencies because you always have to adapt and you have to adapt to the standards that we all agree on like human rights. So I think one of the most important parts of international police work is that we all strive to be better, meaning that we all strive to standardize how we share information, how we share evidence, and this will naturally lead to an increase in the improvement of human rights.”

Written by Matthew Classen, Senior Honorary Media Advisor of The Oslo Times

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