Norway's national police chief has stepped down after a government-commissioned report found that police could have stopped the devastating massacre carried out last year by Anders Behring Breivik sooner and should have been able to prevent a bomb attack from happening at all.
Oystein Maeland said in a statement Thursday that he lacked assurance from Norwegian leaders that they had confidence in him to reform police operations. Justice Minister Grete Faremo had earlier said she wasn’t able to make decisions on how individuals had performed during the bombing and shooting attacks that killed 77 people last year, Norwegian media reported.
“The confidence of the justice minister is critical for me to remain in my position,” Maeland wrote in his statement. “When the minister and other politicians have been unable to unambiguously clarify that, it makes it impossible for me to go ahead with this work.”
The haunting report, released Monday, found that Norwegian police failed to prevent the bombing of the Oslo government headquarters or to speedily stop a shooting rampage on Utoya Island because of a string of failures, including neglecting to carry out security measures that had already been adopted. Norwegian police and lawmakers have called meetings over the findings.
Maeland had not held the job long before the attacks in Oslo and Utoya, but was tarred by critics for not owning up to police failures sooner. Outrage over the report has reached all the way to Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg's office; nearly a fifth of Norwegians said in a poll that he should resign, the Norway Post reported Wednesday.
Breivik, an anti-Muslim extremist who has declared that the attacks were waged to defend Norway from immigrants, is awaiting sentencing, which is expected to hinge on whether he is deemed sane.
-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles
Photo: Norwegian police director Oystein Maeland at a news conference in Oslo in 2011. Credit: Peter Talos / European Pressphoto Agency