"Some of them wear high heels..."
May 28, 2015 8:31 AM   Subscribe

US vs. Nordic Policing How many shots are needed?
posted by zeikka (25 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I know there is some English further in, but are there subtitles for the beginning of the video anywhere?
posted by Anonymous at 8:35 AM on May 28, 2015

Huh? Everything's subtitled for me.
posted by brokkr at 8:38 AM on May 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

(The Norden, previously)
posted by LSK at 8:59 AM on May 28, 2015

This was depressing.

It's clear that Whittingham assumes (as many do) that there's not as much violent crime in these countries as in the US and that, as he says at the end, they're assuming that it [being seriously in danger as police officers] couldn't happen there.

Well, that's a difficult issue to disentangle. For one thing, Norway has one of the highest gun ownership rates in the world. True, the US is three times that number, but then the US is in a class by itself. And also true, those Norwegian guns aren't handguns. Even so, if someone wants to commit crimes with guns in those countries, they can. They're available. As are other deadly weapons. I haven't checked the non-gun violent crime rates, but I know that in many cases other countries are pretty much comparable with the US, and this show begins with a claim that generally the crime is comparable.

So, in general, I think it's safe to say that in some important respects the intuition that Whittingham has is true -- people and law enforcement both are safer in these nordic countries -- but that it's not nearly as true as people think it is. It's not as if the police don't face violent criminals, because they do.

Which brings me to what I find so depressing.

What immediately becomes obvious watching the episode is that Whittingham and American law enforcement is entirely militarized -- the mindset is pretty much exactly, in every respect, that of an occupying army that sees everyone as a potential lethal threat and which prioritizes the officer's safety above every other concern. Whittingham couldn't get his head around a number of things because he just couldn't understand why, for example, the Norwegian police wouldn't always have their firearms immediately available at need. Why in the world take away from a police officer a tool he might need to use in order to protect his own life? Locking the weapon in a lockbox in the vehicle is insane, from that standpoint. Whittingham was just boggled that police training in Finland wasn't like military training, with military discipline and an immediate immersion in a military esprit de corps.

The LAPD has the motto to protect and serve on their cars -- they show it in this episode -- and yet Whittingham is utterly confounded that the Finnish officer would refer to people they'd put in the van as "customers". The response I'd anticipate to this point is that LAPD is protecting and serving the "law-abiding" people of LA. Except that, in practice, the police no longer really think of anyone that way. Everyone is seen as potentially hostile. Police are taught that any possible encounter with a civilian could become deadly. That's how they're trained now.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:53 AM on May 28, 2015 [39 favorites]

I have a couple friends who wen through police academy. What struck me from talking to them is how down they and their instructors were on any kind of de-escalation. It's seen as a loss of control over the situation. Which means all interactions are 100% adversarial. It's not a dialogue or a negotiation, but instead it's either a willing submission to authority or an unwilling submission to force, and if you happen to have enough cognitive delay to not be prompt enough in your submission it's time for force.
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:43 AM on May 28, 2015 [8 favorites]

You know, I'm a first-gen Norwegian-American, love my heritage, have visited Norway many, many times, watch Scandinavian TV all the time.... blah blah blah.

However. This TV show is a perfect example of what I find sooooo insufferable in my Norwegian brethren. So smug, so superior, so certain that they must teach the world "how to do it." Believe me, I find myself so often taking their side in conversations with American conservatives or libertarians who talk themselves blue about how evil socialism is. I talk about how it works well in Scandinavia, and I've got statistics in my back pocket alllll the time to prove my point. I love the place. I love the things they're doing so very very well.

But there's a lot I'd like to see in a show like this that they would never do, since self-congratulation seems so part of what they are all about. I mean, Norwegians have a REALLY BIG blind spot about racism and how it makes them behave toward the new citizens in Norway. When they see the Somali neighborhood in Minneapolis, they are "amazed" at how many of them seem to have jobs and productive lives, apparently convinced that black people are just lazy, teat-sucking wastes of flesh. They are SO uncomfortable with hijab-wearing women and people of color that it makes me blush. My cousin lives in one of the richest suburbs in the world, but they throw all their trash into one bin and don't give a thought to recycling or reducing packaging. I have yet to meet a single Norwegian that thinks some old growth forest should be preserved. They get all that incredible vacation time, but they also can be some of the most arrogant, provincial tourists I've ever seen. (Not loudly. They're not Germans or anything. But still, poverty tourism omg. It seems like they love to go to a place just so they can tell themselves how awesome home is.)

What I'd like to see them do on their reality TV is go find places that are doing things "better" than them, and make their society even more of a paradise, since they seem to think they're already there.
posted by RedEmma at 10:44 AM on May 28, 2015 [11 favorites]

RedEmma: "So smug, so superior, so certain that they must teach the world "how to do it.""
Hey, that sounds exactly like Danes.
posted by brokkr at 11:02 AM on May 28, 2015 [4 favorites]

So smug, so superior, so certain that they must teach the world "how to do it."
Sounds totally The American Way to me...
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:19 AM on May 28, 2015 [5 favorites]

Yes, that's pretty true, for a certain segment of bungling and provincial governmental officials and idiot miscreants who think we're the only country in the world that has "freedoms." (Like, if I had a nickel for every American who said that...rich lady over here.)

But one thing Americans have as a general culture is an ability to laugh at themselves for the things we do that are stupid and crap. We're racist as shit, but we actually kind of like people who are different in an overall, we are the world kind of way. We like weirdos. We're proud of our many cultures, when it comes down to it. We like immigrants, in an abstract sense. We tend to be very critical of what we get wrong, and are mostly getting more conscious of this (thank you social media!). For a country that has an *insane* amount of wildlife and wild spaces, we work pretty hard to protect them. We hate Big Brother.

Whereas it seems to me that the Nordic earnestness and ... it's not exactly a lack of humor (because they've got great self-deprecating humor) but... some subtle idea of "if everyone was like us, everything would be perfect." On the outside looking in, that can sound great. But not so much if you aren't smack dab in the middle of the overall cultural expression inside the borders. Watch out if you're *different* because everyone will look at you like you're unseemly and really should just stop that and go back where you came from.
posted by RedEmma at 12:26 PM on May 28, 2015 [4 favorites]

It reminds me of that Minnesotan thing we say when we really don't like something: "Well, that's.... different."

IMO, it's the most incredibly Scandinavian language hand-me-down those immigrants gave us.
posted by RedEmma at 12:30 PM on May 28, 2015 [4 favorites]

Hey, that sounds exactly like Danes.

That's very American, to confuse Danes with Dutch...
posted by MartinWisse at 12:35 PM on May 28, 2015 [7 favorites]

Like, ask a Norwegian what they would think about having a first generation Somali-Norwegian president, and see what they say.

Even a leftist will stutter.
posted by RedEmma at 12:36 PM on May 28, 2015

(ahem: I meant "prime minister.")
posted by RedEmma at 12:42 PM on May 28, 2015

It's not as if the police don't face violent criminals, because they do.

No. They don't. And none of this is about the police.

IIRC, in the last year, at least a dozen daylight robberies of jewely stores have been carried out in Stockholm by small groups of men armed with axes. No shopowner has a gun and criminals are generally only as violent as they need to be.

If the citizens were better armed (as in America), the criminals would have to be better armed (as in America), and so the cops would have to be better armed (as in America.)
posted by three blind mice at 2:51 PM on May 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

But one thing Americans have as a general culture is an ability to laugh at themselves for the things we do that are stupid and crap.

ehhhhh....some might. Many are about as willing to laugh at their country as we are in Canada. Which is to say, the default reflex is to go on the defensive more often that we'd like to admit. I think most people are this way anywhere you go.
posted by Hoopo at 3:56 PM on May 28, 2015

My father's maternal grandparents were Norwegian immigrants -- so in my family we sentimentally retain some Norwegian cultural stuff in ways that RedEmma would probably find amusing, but which is probably common among other Norwegian-Americans she knows who are more distant from immigration than she is. My dad's uncle and others in my extended family live in the Twin Cities.

So I found watching Alt for Norge utterly fascinating, for example.

I haven't been to Norway or know any Norwegians personally, but because of this heritage I've always had some romantic thoughts of living in Norway (thus the fascination with Alt for Norge). So I've researched a little bit and what I found interesting and dismaying is that although I'm sure that the things mentioned by RedEmma are true for all these countries (and a great many others, besides), among those three and Denmark, Norway is apparently the worst. My impression is that Finland is the least this way, but that makes sense to me for historical reasons. Denmark puzzles me, a bit.

With regard to the topic of this post, when I watched Bron/Broen, the contrasts between Swedish and Danish policing was an ongoing theme, and related to what seemed to be higher rates of violent, urban crime in Copenhagen (but it's not as if Malmö isn't also a large city). I don't know how accurate that was, but as part of the point of the show was to examine these sorts of cultural differences, I assume there was some truth to it. The Swedes were very much in that low-impact "serving customers" mindset while, in contrast, Danish policing looked more like American policing.

It's also my impression -- certainly of British (excluding NI, which is different) policing -- that while there are these European countries that avoid the use of firearms and deadly force by patrol officers and the like, they all have highly armed and aggressive tactical units that are used when needed.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:41 PM on May 28, 2015

Wasn't this covered in Lillyhammer at some point?
posted by the cydonian at 8:08 PM on May 28, 2015

now let me tell you what's crap about australia
posted by um at 8:30 PM on May 28, 2015

RedEmma - your Norway is definitely not my Norway. As a native that left at the age of 5 and grew up in New York City before returning, I know for fact my countrymen for the most part are all about inclusion.

Your opinion of norwegians is pure shite. Why don´t you move to Norway and actually experience it?

And sure, I love New York and the states as well, but as a tourist. Lovely place to visit but when compared against most other western countries, well let´s be honest. It actually kind of sucks if you are different (as in poor, non white, immigrant etc. etc. etc.).
posted by Funmonkey1 at 2:15 AM on May 29, 2015

Yeah, not to discount your experience Red Emma but I could certainly say the same about certain elements of British society (cf Top Gear), and it wouldn't surprise me if it was the same in many if not most countries. Certainly I've met Nordic people who grouse about the way their country is run, sometimes strongly. And at least (from an outsider perspective) the Nordic countries have some justification for pride (even smugness?) given the good results they seem to mostly get.

Still, it's always good to be reminded that nowhere is perfect!
posted by Drexen at 3:54 AM on May 29, 2015

At the risk of spouting a stupid truism, I'll say that I think that both the inside and the outside views of a culture are always partial and misleading. For example, my own experience of growing up in a small-town is that neither the insider or outsider views are quite right. It's more complicated. This occurred to me because one thing we're talking about is tolerance -- and small towns in the US, anyway, are often weirdly both intolerant and tolerant -- the latter in ways the city folk wouldn't expect. But they sure as hell are also often intolerant.

In doing some personal research, I read quite a few discussions by people -- natives and immigrants and long-term residents -- about the issues raised by RedEmma with regard to Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark. (In fact, I think we had a long discussion here in some thread about Denmark, actually, though I can't remember at all what spawned it.) Anyway, there really was some regularity in what I read, across these different places. And Norway seemed to be the most suspicious of outsiders (and, notoriously, basically forever, no matter how long anyone lived there or their parents lived there) and the most self-congratulatory in this kind of off-putting, prideful way. There was some of this with every one of these countries, and of course this is true almost everywhere to some degree, but my impressions is that these countries are somewhat more that way than most of the rest of western Europe (not eastern Europe, though, and certainly not Asia), but most so in Norway.

Some of this is just historical contingency. You can very earnestly embrace the idea of inclusion, adopt widely popular policies favoring inclusion and tolerance, and yet in practice have a lot of daily exclusion and intolerance just because most of these ideals of inclusion and tolerance are theoretical. A culture really has to work, in a long-term and day-to-day practical sense, to actually learn to be inclusive and tolerant of difference. It needs the opportunity to do this as a practical matter. And so there are many more nations/cultures that are theoretically very tolerant and inclusive (and this certainly includes the US) but which as a practical day-to-day matter don't do that good of a job of it. I think that Canada does a much better job of it than the US does, and even so my observation as an American who was married to a Canadian is that Canada often doesn't do as good a job of it as it likes to think it does. And, yeah, I want to be perfectly clear that I think the vast majority of the US does a pretty bad job of it. (I've seen it better and worse, and it's without exception worse than the people who live there think it is. But I think this is true basically everywhere.)
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:26 AM on May 29, 2015 [3 favorites]

Your opinion of norwegians is pure shite.

Well, that's.... different.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 4:51 AM on May 29, 2015 [3 favorites]

I mean, Norwegians have a REALLY BIG blind spot about racism and how it makes them behave toward the new citizens in Norway. When they see the Somali neighborhood in Minneapolis, they are "amazed" at how many of them seem to have jobs and productive lives, apparently convinced that black people are just lazy, teat-sucking wastes of flesh.

I don't agree with much of your other comments, but this is true. People in Scandinavia are very comfortable saying things that would never be uttered in polite crowd in US. Somehow the refugees in US are productive members of society, while in Helsinki they are viewed as welfare bums.
posted by zeikka at 5:08 AM on May 29, 2015

I really like this example of how somalian refugees are viewed in Scandinavia.

For one thing, the Scandinavian countries are not built on the model of immigration. There was no statue holding a torch to welcome all the poor sick and tired for nearly 150 years like the USA.

For us it is relatively new and without a doubt there are always going to be people that look down at any segment of society other than there own. Same thing happens in every other country. And I sure enough have met more than my fair share of American assholes spouting things like take away food stamps, make the poor work for free and on and on.

BUT - and this is big thing - guess who takes in the most refugees, asylum seekers etc per capita? Lo and behold its the lefty scandinavian countries like mine.

Back to the route of the whole post - nordic policing. The system works on a de-escalation model and in a much larger sense - a culture of personal responsibility. We still have crime and a lot of small stuff slips through the cracks as we dont have cops sitting on every corner. When it comes to the big crime though the police are very efficient.

For me, my favourite part of nordic policing is driving on the motorway. Maybe once a year you will find a police car actually taking radar for a couple of hours. Other than that you wouldn´t even see a police car ever. Policing isn´t seen nor used as a revenue source.
posted by Funmonkey1 at 6:21 AM on May 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

The system works on a de-escalation model and in a much larger sense - a culture of personal responsibility.

Reminds me of this! (previously)
posted by Drexen at 6:45 AM on May 29, 2015

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