Police terror response hit by chopper shortage

Swedish police have warned that if a terrorist attack similar to the Utøya massacre should occur in Sweden then the response would be no faster due to the shortage of helicopters, according to a report in the Dagens Nyheter daily.

“We have a huge need for better transport options,” said Jonas Hysing, deputy director of the National Task Force.

On one mission in northern Sweden, National Task Force officers were obliged to travel on a scheduled flight.

The National Police Agency (Rikspolisstyrelsen) is now investigating the possibility of acquiring more and larger helicopters.

Justice minister Beatrice Ask, does not know if the Swedish National Task Force would be able to scramble faster that the Norwegian police, who took an hour to arrive at the island following the first alarm call.

“It’s hard to say. Sweden is a large country and it may take time to get around, but the ambition is to be in place as quickly as possible when an emergency occurs,” she said.

Ask said that the transport resources available to the police are currently under review.

“There is an ongoing investigation by the National Police Agency. The National Task Force, of course, aims to be better and faster than at present. But this is a discussion that, first and foremost, the authority must conduct.

When asked why an investigation was needed and why a helicopter could not just be purchased, Ask replied:

“It is not just a matter of buying one. It has to be paid for, then it has to be fitted and there should be staff, there is quite a considerable apparatus.”

The head of the National Police Agency, Bengt Svenson, argued that the problem is not the lack of helicopters, but the coordination of those that are currently in service.

“The Swedish police have no helicopter that can transport a whole group of seven or eight police officers. But this is an issue that is broader than the police.”

“Currently every authority accounts for its own own helicopter operations. We need better coordination for the helicopters, one possible solution is a new authority to take charge of all civilian helicopter transport.”

According to Bengt Svenson there are regional task forces and special riot units in Gothenburg, Stockholm and Malmö, which could be used for a similar attack had occurred in Sweden.

Svenson also said that it is not always the case that a national task force unit will be dispatched.

“It depends on when and how. You have to decide from case to case, what happened on Utøya is so remarkable. If an individual is firing shots does not automatically mean that the national task force is sent.”

Svenson also said that a national task force unit could take longer that other police resources.

“They will probably be in place within a short time, we have police officers throughout the country and there is an emergency routine. But if a special police force is needed it could take longer.”

Svenson says that the police should review its helicopter operations.

“We have initiated discussions with other agencies such as the National Agency for Civil Contingencies (Myndigheten för samhällsskydd och beredskap) to look at how we could coordinate their activities,” he said.

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