This is the official blog of ex-Sgt Ellie Bloggs. I was a real live police constable then sergeant for twelve years, on the real live front line of England. I'm now a real live non-police person. All the facts I recount are true, and are not secrets. If they don't want me blogging about it, they shouldn't do it. PS If you don't pay tax, you don't (or didn't) pay my salary.

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Saturday, July 23, 2011

No time for finger-pointing

It's taken all of a day for news commentators to launch criticism of the Norwegian police for taking over an hour to reach Utoeya to apprehend a gunman who has shot dead over 80 people - mostly children aged 14-18.

Apparently the gunman, dressed as a policeman, gathered many of the 600 youths together to talk to them about the Oslo bombing, before opening fire.  A 32-year-old man has now been charged with both attacks.

Reporters are blaming "a lack of preparedness" in Norway, for such an attack.

The truth is, if such an episode occurred on the Isle of Wight, just hours after a major bomb explosion in London, our response may be no quicker.  As seen in the reports after the Cumbrian massacre by Derrick Bird, armed response officers are not available at a click of a finger, in the kind of numbers needed to successfully shut down an "active shooter" armed with automatic weapons.  

We too would require commando teams to approach in boats or helicopters, more than anything because it would not be clear that such carnage was being caused by only one shooter.   As the 520 surviving children texted their families with stories of being hidden behind a rock hearing the gunman breathing above them as he fired on their friends in the water, Norway's 999 system must have gone into meltdown.  It probably took up to half an hour to understand what was happening, and another 20 minutes travelling time to reach the obscure location.  Another half hour could easily be spent debating tactics - there's no point sending in officers one at a time to add to the death toll.

"Active Shooter" training is being delivered to police supervisors across the UK in the wake of events in Cumbria.  Nothing being taught would have made the slightest difference to the Utoeya massacre.  Or to any one-man massacre.

All in all, there can be no "preparedness" for an event like this.  There can only be realisation and tragedy.

'Diary of an On-Call Girl' is available in some bookstores and online.


Anonymous A Polis Man said...

good post and to the point, films do not equal reality

23 July, 2011 10:13

Anonymous Anonymous said...

A good argument for all police officers to be armed and to have easy access to heavy weaponry. Active shooters in the USA, Canada and Australia don't last 5 minutes.

23 July, 2011 10:30

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous@10:30, Martin Bryant lasted a lot longer than 5 minutes. Routine arming of police officers doesn't stop this sort of thing happening, it just reduces the chances of their ending up one of the victims.

23 July, 2011 11:47

Anonymous Anonymous said...

@ anonymous 1030 - all police in Norway are armed, but it doesn't help if they are 45 minutes away. General arming of the police is not the answer and will increase the number of police and public killed, not reduce it.

23 July, 2011 13:59

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Police in Norway have access to firearms but are not routinely armed. There is no defence against the type of pre-planned attack. Many countries have suffered this style of attack and the quality of their emergency services has made no difference.

23 July, 2011 15:28

Blogger TonyF said...

Anyone who decides to kill lots of people, and who doesn't care if they die doing it, will, unless they are monumentally incompetent, succeed. If they choose a small island where they are most likely to be the only armed person, well..

As for the Police of any country being able to stop such a situation, anyone who thinks that it is possible, is delusional. A lone lunatic with a gun, even in America, can and has, done huge amounts of damage. So even if you armed everyone....

The Norwegian Police and rescue services have done a magnificent job

23 July, 2011 19:26

OpenID inspectorgadget said...

In the UK, even if an armed police officer did shoot a maniac like this dead they would be suspended for 2 years, investigated by the IPCC, destroyed by the Guardian and suffer a trial by Youtube.

23 July, 2011 19:52

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The news of this tragedy really upset me earlier on, when I heard what the maniac had done.

How dare people like him describe themselves as "Christians" and then go out and commit a brutal and cold blooded masacre of innocent people. It is a contradiction.

The killer quite clearly did not know even the basic message Christ delivered over 2000 years ago. It was one of PEACE and non violence and love for others, even our enemies, whom we are urged to forgive.

The survivors and the relatives of those who lost their lives, if they are Christians, will be having their faith severely tested right now, and may find it very difficult to forgive the misguided loony who killed their loved ones.

My sincere sympathy and prayers for all those people in Norway who have been affected by this terrible tragedy.

24 July, 2011 00:37

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just shows what a well motivated devious individual can do.
Do we know of any persons with the same willingness to carry out such direct attacks with the materiel and support to succeed, oh yes lets see how the Olympics go.
i've seen my farces SFO team training with SF troops and the one thing that is obvious is a lot of people will get killed in a real attack before an appropriately armed team can react, and i'm not talking about police SFO teams with meagre quantities of the right ammo, weapons and sufficient numbers of trained people at the scene quickly. Glad i don't work in the Mecrapolis.

24 July, 2011 01:42

Blogger Joker said...

This might be viewed as slightly tangential (tangental?) to the discussion, but I just popped in after many months away to ask if anyone had heard 'Any Questions?' on Radio 4 this Friday? Dominic Lawson was saying that police numbers could be effectively doubled if officers went on patrol singly, instead of being paired up all the time. I know that's an issue close to people's hearts...

24 July, 2011 11:36

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would be much happier with single patrol if we had the means to protect ourselves such as taser.
Apart from the safety problem the other issue is evidential.The criminals could allege all sorts of stuff about a single officer.
If you are getting beaten up or burgled,would you like just one officer to pop along and help you?

24 July, 2011 11:46

Blogger English Pensioner said...

I just wonder how many of the critics have been to Norway. The population is only 5 million, and it is one of the least densely populated countries in Europe. Clearly, compared with Britain, with 60 million population, it is totally unreasonable to expect the emergency services to be available on the scale that they would be here. Think of towns in the UK with a population of less than a million, and ask what resources they would be able to deploy by themselves if they were unable to call for help from adjoining bigger towns. Unfortunately, Oslo is the biggest town, so there is no other help within range; the next biggest town, Bergen, is some distance away!

24 July, 2011 22:09

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The opinion put forward in this post is a reasonable argument, from a police perspective. It is fair comment, that if the police are UNAWARE of a dangerous lone wolf in the area, who may have fanatical beliefs, and who may be mad enough to commit mass murder, then it isn't fair to criticise the police for not stopping the gunman sooner than they managed to.

However, given that the UK and the US security services DID give warning last year about lone wolves and Mumbai style attacks in the EU. The finger does need to be pointed at the appropriate people in Norway who failed to take the Intel seriously enough. Had they done, they may well have been prepared enough to prevent the terrible tragedy. Those who had been given DETAILED prior information, will be at a high level in the Norwegian government.

I feel sorry for them, genuinely sorry, because the pain of this tragedy AND the realisation that the Intelligence on it, that they were given prior warning of, was accurate, must be unbearable for them.

In circumstances like these, finger pointing may well be uncomfortable for those who made a serious error and who failed to prevent the attack. But any attempts to cover up the truth of the matter, will in the long term, place a greater number in mortal peril. That is truth and fact.

The temptation by politicians and those in the security services, to agree to "deny" any prior knowledge of the lone wolf and the danger he posed, will be considerable, to save face, reputations, jobs and pensions and any media storm.

An even bigger tragedy could happen in the future, IF the finger is not pointed at those who failed to realise that the security service warning of Mumbai style attacks in the EU, was accurate and serious.

It was and is as serious as the Intel warnings about 9-11, Madrid and 7-7-2005, et al, and that the continued GLOBAL use of nuclear reactors must STOP NOW, to safeguard chidren, future generations, protect humanity and this planet from that lethal to life and this planet technology.

If my memory serves me well, the EU and in particular Norway, have had a policy of support for nuclear power. They ignored the security service warning to NOT continue with it, as did the UK Labour government. Germany and Italy made the right decision on it abandon it.

The media will be doing everyone a good turn if they do "point the finger", but only at those at the top, who place the future of the world and many people's lives in great danger.....Simply because they were "not prepared" to listen nor take heed of serious warnings.

R.I.P all those who lost their lives in Norway, and sincere heartfelt condolences to the relatives and friends of the many victims of this tragedy. I have cried too.

25 July, 2011 02:24

Anonymous Anonymous said...

....and that should have read...."safeguard children".

25 July, 2011 02:28

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon 2, Tasmanian police (Australia) weren't able to stop Martin Bryant within five minutes despite being routinely armed. His shooting spree at Port Arthur started around 11.45am on 28 April 1996. He wasn't captured for 24 hours.

The first two police officers were alerted at 1.32pm. They arrived on scene, in separate cars as they were single crewed, around 2pm but were rapidly pinned down by gun fire from Bryant. It was until 9pm that the first SOG team arrived.

If an active shooter/spree killer runs amok in a relatively remote area with few police, it is going to take some considerable time for a suitable response to be put together, travel to the scene, and intervene. There's no getting around that.

As for the ludicrous idea that the Norwegian police should have jumped into a helicopter and flown there in minutes, does anyone have a clue as to what's involved in doing that?

The Norwegian Police Service has two small helicopters, a Eurocopter EC 135 and a Eurocopter AS350B3. They're observation helicopters, similar to those operated by various UK police forces and seen regularly on TV. They can't carry large teams of heavily armed, tactically equipped police. The Norwegian police would have had to use military helicopters and that would have taken more time.

As for having specialist teams always available, at a minimum, you'd want a couple of scout/observation helicopters each with two observer/spotters and a sniper going in first to recce the scene, identify potential LZs and identify threats. Two because of the risks of mechanical malfunctions or hostile fire.

Following them in would be at least two slicks, transport helicopters with open/removed doors on both sides and each carrying a team of at least 10 suitably equipped officers. They'd either have to land at an RV well away from the scene and deploy to it—reducing the risk to the helos and teams but increasing time—or hit a hot LZ—faster but at very high risk.

To maintain a team like that on five-minute alert status, 24/7 would require a fleet of helicopters (at least triple the number on alert), an large pool of trained personnel to make up the alert teams and flight crews, and a large pool of support staff. They'd need a large central facility from where they could reach the entire country. It would cost a bomb. And sure as eggs are eggs, after a year or two of non-deployment the public, the media and the politicians would start decrying the waste of taxpayer's money.

25 July, 2011 10:26

Anonymous Hat said...

I think 'people' blame the police because they are scared.
They want to believe that a better police force could prevent these things, and they want to believe that if the police force is changed it won't happen again.

They're terrified that one nutter with a couple of guns can kill almost 100 kids before being stopped, and they are terrified what would happen if it was two or three nutters with bigger guns.

They are scared to admit the fact they there's nothing that can be done about it.
They want to come up with ideas to stop it – or they want someone in power to come up with better ideas.

They can't admit that even though the police did everything right, almost 100 families have lost their children.
They can't accept that one person with a gun has no much more power than an entire countries police force.

The scary thing is – I empathise with these people.
I find it scary that just one bloke with a gun can do some much damage – and I wish there was something that could be done to stop it happening again.

25 July, 2011 12:05

Anonymous llamas said...

An Anonymous wrote:

'A good argument for all police officers to be armed and to have easy access to heavy weaponry. Active shooters in the USA, Canada and Australia don't last 5 minutes.'

Which is nonsense. Some don't last five minutes - but many do.

Cases in point:

The Wixom plant shootings
The Virgina Tech shootings
The Grand Rapids shootings

and the list goes on and on. Put simply, there's no form of police response - anywhere - that can be effective immediately against a determined and well-prepared shooter.

The only sure cure for that - just like the only sure cure against airplane hijackers - is a population that's willing and able to respond where and when the trouble starts. When seconds count, the police are only minutes away - but there are citizens on the spot.



25 July, 2011 17:52

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry - foreign law enforcement teams have already changed tactics to deal with Active Shooter scenarios. In the fist few minutes there is little that can be done and the response to Virgina Tech showed that armed law enforcement stopped the second attack in six minutes. In gist they now advocate the first responders closing the subject down and engaging them with gun fire whilst the cavalry are mobilised.

You can train and prepare for these scenarios and the UK Active Shooter training is a joke as we can't harass or impede them

26 July, 2011 14:09

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joker.... come to the North West we ONLY single crew and have done for the last thirty years.

26 July, 2011 21:07

Anonymous Norwegian said...

It's nice to read a sober and pretty accurate take on the events. While many are very focused on what the emergency services did and did not do in the benefit of hindsight - it's important to remember the points that come to light in this post and the comments running underneath.

Norway is a country of 5 million people, as others rightly comment, one of the sparsest populated countries in Europe.

This happened 30 minutes after a bomb went of outside the government headquarters in the middle of the capital.

The location is 30-45 minutes by car (under "normal" circumstances) outside the capital and only accessible by boat.

If this was further north, the shooter would have had more or less free reigns for hours - locations where response time for anybody (let alone armed response) would be on the order of hours.

Through all this, it is important to remember that this is a rare event. Scaling the response for something that has happened once seems like a waste of good resources that could go into policing the majority of crime that affect the majority of people...

28 July, 2011 10:44

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"A lone lunatic with a gun, even in America, can and has, done huge amounts of damage. So even if you armed everyone...."

Absolute rubbish. No lone lunatic with a gun has ever killed more than a handful of people IF in a concealed carry state, in an area where people are 'allowed' to carry.
So you are talking absolute rubbish. There has never been a mass shooting at a gun show, for example. How do you explain that?

This article is also rubbish, because the idea that "It probably took up to half an hour to understand what was happening" is ridiculous. Why not ten hours? Why not ten years? It takes about ten seconds to understand "I am on an island with 700 people and a man is shooting us." Which part of that don't you understand?

"Norway's 999 system must have gone into meltdown."

In what way? More excuses.

Why did the police take 90 minutes to get to the island? Try stopping reading this, and sit wherever you are for 90 minutes, and see how long it feels like. How did the police know Breivik's name when they challenged him?

As for mentioning the Derrick Bird case - two wrongs don't make a right, and two examples of pathetic police responses don't prove each other to be correct, or excusable.

As for trying to make out that sending ARMED police officers onto the island would result in their deaths...

"Another half hour could easily be spent debating tactics - there's no point sending in officers one at a time to add to the death toll."

Yeah, sure. I notice he didn't mention ARMED officers.

So let me see... Breivik is wandering around the island, chasing children who are UNARMED, and shooting them, and then a policeman who is ARMED gets onto the island, and somehow Breivik knows he has landed? And knows where he is? And knows he is armed?

Of course not. Breivik wouldn't and COULDN'T know that anybody had landed on the island, unless you landed right in front of him, and as he was the only one with a GUN, you could HEAR where he was. Duh. So as an armed police officer, you approach the sound of gunfire, with your sniper rifle, and then shoot him.

Cue morons trying to make up stupid excuses for why any of the above isn't the case.

Breivik was ALLOWED to continue by the upper echelons of the police service, because he had help from those 'at the top'. This is so obvious that it's unbelievable anybody can question it.

Derrick Bird was also ALLOWED to carry on killing people for TWO AND A HALF HOURS. Why wasn't an army helicopter gunship brought in right after his first murder? Why were we given ludicrous excuses for the pathetic failure of the police in that case? Why wasn't Derrick Bird's car within sight of a police helicopter within ten minutes of his first shooting? Do you know how fast a helicopter can fly?

04 August, 2011 00:04

Blogger staghounds said...

These characters choose their times and targets, and pretty much will do what their targets don't prevent.

United 93, motherf*cker.

09 August, 2011 00:07


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