Jack Catchem.com

World Police: Norway vs USA

There I was, contentedly crunching through the information that Facebook’s algorithm has determined I NEED to know about when I was confronted with a short video. Norway cops vs USA cops! I watched it thinking: wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, until the conclusion, which is right!

I’ll leave a link for the video here.

First, the WRONG:

Point #1: Norweigan police train for 3 years, American cops train for an average of 9 weeks.

First item of note, which will reoccur often during this comparative analysis: Norway is a small, wealthy country. Norway has as many people as the San Francisco Metro area (approximately 5 million). Norway is roughly the same landmass as the Bay Area. It’s also as rich as Saudi Arabia due to its incredible oil wealth.

Similar to Saudi Arabia, a lot of that wealth gets spent on the population and government service. They can afford to stable a proto-police officer for three years until he or she is a perfectly trained law-stallion.

America doesn’t have the same amount of time or money to spend. We make do with blue mustangs and train On The Job. The San Diego Police Department estimates it takes over $150,000 to recruit, investigate, train, and supervise a would-be police officer for this short amount of time. 


The initial recruitment and investigation takes six months to a year. A California academy is required to be six months. During the academy period if you fail any of the almost daily tests twice, you fail out of the program.

Finally there is a year long period in which for the first six months, the recruit is directly supervised by an experienced officer and evaluated daily. For the second six he is closely monitored by a sergeant and evaluated weekly. Throughout this year of probation, the recruit can be summarily fired as they are still essentially an at will employee.

I’ll grant it’s not three years of training, but it is closely monitored on the job training. Academy classes routinely lose 30 – 60% of their members during the initial testing period. Probationary officers are let go or resign with appalling regularity.

For those worried about this “lack of training” I have an honest question: how much do you want (as a citizen) to pay a would-be cop to sit in a classroom and run scenarios with their teachers, classmates, and paid actors. You are paying her to do it, when is enough enough? Six months? Three years? It’s your dollars in the end. I agree it’s difficult to identify the exact moment of “enough training” but realize it costs money and time.

Point #2: “if someone has a knife or gun, we bring the guns”

During the clip, a (presumably Norweigan) officer states to the camera soberly “If someone has a knife or gun, we bring the guns.” I believe the girls editors are insinuating American cops are stupidly escalating situations by bringing guns everywhere. Yes. there is a pistol on every officer’s hip, and in the car are even larger guns. The pistol is ever present,and I can also guarantee just as much as the Norweigan officer: If the suspect has a knife or gun, responding officers will bring the guns (and tasers, beanbag guns, and dogs. At least as reported by the video, I really don’t see the difference in policy. Outside of immediate self defense, the ability to use force is a tightly controlled monopoly of the state.

Point #3: no police deaths since 2006.

Firstly, this is impressive, but one should also consider the societal and cultural differences. Norway is a largely wealthy, homogenous population. This makes for a happier, more peaceable society. This is something I experience daily in my shift from Big City PD to The City PD. For a real world comparison, how often do you hear of a shooting in Los Gatos, Palo Alto, or San Rafael versus Oakland, Stockton, or Fresno. Comfortable citizens who feel sympathetic, if not proud, of the “system” really have no incentive to fight “the man.”

Also the lack of deaths attributed to policing does not mean everything is rosy at home. On 7/22/2016, a terrible incident with an active shooter occurred in Norway.

“(The Shooter) gathered the campers together and for some 90 hellish minutes he coolly and methodically shot them, hunting down those who fled. At least 85 people, some as young as 16, were killed.”

“He was equipped, the police said, with an automatic rifle and a handgun; when the police finally got to the island — about 40 minutes after they were called, the police said — (the shooter) surrendered.”

I see the cause of the permissive environment for policing to spring more from local culture, not from significantly different tactics by police.

More Wrong (or at least deceptive): 1 in 13 gun deaths by cop.

IF you get killed by a gun, there is a 7.6% chance a police officer fired the bullet. This circumstance covers active shooter scenarios, suicide by cop, and self defense. The number by itself means very little. Shame on the editors for attempting to make a number without context scream meaning.

Most Wrong: “A police officer should not be able to gun a man down for no reason.”

Not to be pithy, but a police officer ISN’T able to do this. There are specific circumstances that it is legally permissible, fall outside those regulations, and the officer goes to jail. I won’t give this more words than it needs. Thinking like this is juvenile. There are rules and consequences. Just because you might not know them does not mean they do not exist.

AGREE! (But)

Conclusion: The last line shared by the video is: “Share this video if you think police need more training.”

Hey! I agree! Who would have thought, right? The baseline here is training is good, but it COSTS. More training for cops and more training for suspects leads to a more professional permissible environment. But how much is too much? You decide, it’s your money. Norway has a Sovereign Wealth fund thanks to oil reserves, American cities have property taxes.

Note for my one Norwegian reader. I have no idea how you found my blog, but appreciate the reads! This is in no way an attempt to cast aspersions on your incredibly lovely country and well structured society. This is a criticism of a short American video attempting to state “This is what American policing should do” without appropriate context and skewed supporting numbers.

If we had the same funding and peaceable society, I would happily agree. However, our cities are poorer and our society is known for its violence and adoration of weapons. Norway cops vs USA cops. Who would you rather have protect and serve you?

Am I off base on this? Let me know in the comments below!


  1. Marty Major

    Your perception is obviously biased. You are behind the thin blue line, while most are not. I don’t expect you to be able to think like a non-LE professional – but I think you should still try… ZERO police caused deaths over 10 years is a huge accomplishment and should be heralded.

    Sure, the playing field in Norway vs the US is different – but to dismiss quality police training as an afterthought because it costs money is – imo – a wildly subjective opinion based on your own LE experience.

    You think LE is somehow under ‘attack’ here in the US, while most think they are simply trying to state that the wearing of an LE badge does not grant an officer the license to kill based on non-compliance.

    Americans would actually trust LE in the US (like we used to) if their TRAINING didn’t dictate that all they need to do is state ‘I felt my life was in danger’ before executing citizens.

    I am pro-LE believe it or not… we certainly need them. But police are supposed to ‘serve and protect’ (remember that one?). It appears to the WORLD that US LE training #FAILS by instilling the notion within the ranks that as long as you can say you felt ‘threatened’ – that it is permissible to execute citizens based on non-compliance.

    1. Jack (Post author)

      Hi Marty,
      I agree I’m biased, based upon my experiences it’s difficult not to be. However, I try to be entirely open to good data. Norway does have an exemplary record, as you astutely point out. Their training program must be rigorous. I’m not seeking to dismiss their training as much as ask: how much is enough?

      It’s a question I do not know the answer to and have yet to find studies identifying a correlation between hours of crisis intervention training and use of force rates. From behind the line, I feel less than 3 years is necessary; I’m not surprised if people on the far side would like more. I apologize if it seems crass, but my “real world” consideration is how much training do citizens want officers to have and how much are they willing to pay for?

      I agree that the mere statement of “felt threatened” shouldn’t be sufficient for the loss of a citizen’s life. The recent case of the LAPD officers found “out of policy” for shooting a subject when he was contact tazing another officer substantiates that more evidence of lethal threat is needed (http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-lapd-shooting-20160629-snap-story.html).

      Having been through an Officer Involved Shooting investigation as an involved party, I can tell you the investigation is deep and detailed. At the same time, it’s also kept very close to the chest due to the criminal investigation and likely pending civil suits. Unfortunately the external opacity of the investigation probably damages public perception. A simple “I felt threatened” will end you, but it’s not something citizens are likely to see.

      I have two follow on questions I’d be interested to get your take on (as well as other readers):

      1) On a scale of 6 months (California) to 3 years (Norway) where should future California policing fall?

      2) In today’s climate, what is the most effective/efficient change policing could make to earn back citizen’s trust?

      Thanks for your comment and the constructive criticism (it’s difficult to find).

      1. Marty Major

        I tend to agree with John when he posts that:

        “it’s impossible to know how many good decisions come from training principles vs. first hand experiences.”

        … yet disagree (at least in the realm of police training) that:

        “Hopefully with enough experience comes better judgment.”

        I would like to think this as well… but what I actually believe happens is that even new recruits with completely altruistic reasons for becoming a LE officer eventually take their position on the LE side of that blue line that isn’t very thick. Because they feel they have to.

        After being mired in the cesspool of human existence that IS inner-city policing for any extended period of time, it is only natural (and human) to develop the us-vs-them mindset that is THE largest factor that can allow a decent human being to execute another human when that other human simply does not comply with a lawful order from LE.

        That’s as stripped-down and bare to the bone as I can say it. It isn’t the individual LE officer… they are as human as you and I. It’s the ‘us vs them’ thing that is the real problem. LE training should be focused around this reality – not the over-riding concept that the most important thing in any scenario is for the LE officer to go home not dead that night.

        Don’t hate a cop for being a human – hate the society that creates the cesspool that these men and women have to somehow protect – while still being human.

        But police training doesn’t need to get longer or shorter – it needs to get better.

  2. John

    Like most jobs, I imagine the bulk of the real learning happens on the job. You can talk theories and scenarios all day long but that all goes out the window in a high stakes situation…as we’ve seen in the recent news.

    Hopefully with enough experience comes better judgment. It’s a really difficult question you pose, because it’s impossible to know how many good decisions come from training principles vs. first hand experiences. I’m also the furthest thing you can be from a law enforcement officer so I’m staying neutral!

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  4. William

    Your 14 year old daughter is lying dead on the floor because a cop came into a meth house with guns blazing only to find out it’s the wrong house. It has happened. You let me know if that officer should have had more training.

    1. Jack (Post author)

      For a second there you had me worried. I was curious what my 14 year old was doing in a meth house, she said she was getting math tutoring!

      Tragedies do happen. Until you remove the human element from policing there will always be the good faith accident. It’s tragic, but goes hand in hand with any human error. What I do appreciate is living in a land where such a tragedy is taken seriously by the government, the harm is addressed (sometimes with millions of dollars) and the vast majority of law enforcement strives harder on a daily basis to avoid such circumstances.

      If the criminal element wasn’t integrated into society, policing would be drastically easier. Unfortunately crime is an unfortunate by product of society. Similar to an insurgency, where the enemy will operate out of hospitals and churches in order to conceal their dangerous activities, so too will drug dealers.

      A cop will still answer a call for service the next day because that’s what we do for society. A drug dealer will still be addicting and destroying the lives of everyone they touch. My true question is not “training” as a good or bad thing. Training is good! But the honest question, William, is this. When is it just a pointless reaction. When do we suit up and say “game time.”

      Every city only has so many resources. Norway can afford three years, Californians can barely afford an initial six months and then do a working year of OJT. At what line would you be most comfortable with? One year? Three? Five?

      California POST is aggressive and during the six months there’s a weekly pass/fail event. Fail any event twice or fail too many events the first time and you are kicked out. Most academies have a 30-60% fail ratio. Does this more intensive model provide you comfort or does it not affect you? Thanks for participating, I appreciate your input1

  5. karl

    The police training in Norway is of an academic nature and was introduced as a requirement from the union to justify a higher salary, NOT to become better cops.
    The officers now have a college education and as any college educated to carry addicts and to serve and protect ANY layer of the population is not the preferred tasks. To relate to ordinary people is much nicer, so Norway now have the highest educated highway patrol. Is the very low rate of violence due to the overly educated police? Not very likely. Norwegians are recognised to have a very high violence treshold. Believed partly to be due to most people living their whole life in the community they grew up in. The number og guns in Norway? It is a country who have more arms than taxpayers and the tax morale is also high.

    1. Jack (Post author)

      Interesting! Thanks for the insight Karl! It’s always easier to make assumptions about data than delve into the details, so thanks for helping us with a more accurate picture.

  6. Christian

    I won’t say to much on this issue. I would just like to add that here in Norway(yes, I’m a norwegian) we put most of the oil money in a fund(savings of the people), leading to us only during 4% of the money as a general gideline(will go up or down a bit, depending on the economical situation). So saying that It’s the oil money giveing us the opportunity to fund our long police training would be false. Seeing how most of our government spending is based on tax money.


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