Swedish police to become better drivers

From 2013, Swedish police recruits will receive more extensive training in driving emergency vehicles in an attempt to reduce the number of officers injured in road accidents.

”Drivers will be given more insight into their own abilities, the influence of a the group and in stress management, but also into the limitations of the vehicle and the state of the roads,” said Åsa Hällefors, county driving instructor at the Umeå police, to regional newspaper Västerbottens Folkblad.

Hällefors also told the newspaper that further training in driving skills for the entire Swedish police force is on the cards in the near future.

According to the paper, 989 police officers were injured in road accidents between 2006 and 2010.

All the injured personnel received financial compensation for their injuries, 40 were hurt badly enough to be disabled, and two lost their lives. Not to mention the expensive damages caused to police vehicles.

Jörgen Lundälv, a researcher in traffic medicine, explained that Sweden’s police officers are involved in hundreds of accidents while on duty every year.

”Compared to other professional drivers there is a very low demand on the driving skills of police officers. Instead of training everyone they should have fewer but better trained police drivers,” Lundälv told the paper, welcoming news that recruits would receive more training.

According to Hällefors, the new recruits initial training sessions will be increased from eight to 15 days.

The training is also to be carried out in two stages, as it is believed that the newly examined officers should have more driving experience before they are let loose to drive with flashing lights and sirens going.

”The focus will shift onto the people in the vehicles. Research shows us that this is the area where we can prevent most accidents,” said Åsa Hällefors, county instructor at the Umeå police, to the paper.

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Calls for special police tactics to be available across Sweden

The chairwoman of the Police Association West Region has said that police special tactics, known as Särskild polistaktik or SPT, should be available across Sweden, to use in demonstrations similar to those during the Easter weekend.

Calls for special police tactics to be available across Sweden

SPT, (Särskild polistaktik), is a tactic where the police work with communication rather than physical measures to reduce the risk of conflicts during events like demonstrations.

Tactics include knowledge about how social movements function and how crowds act, as well as understanding how individuals and groups act in a given situation. Police may attempt to engage in collaboration and trust building, which they are specially trained to do.

Katharina von Sydow, chairwoman of the Police Association West Region, told Swedish Radio P4 West that the concept should exist throughout the country.

“We have nothing to defend ourselves within 10 to 15 metres. We need tools to stop this type of violent riot without doing too much damage,” she said.

SPT is used in the West region, the South region and in Stockholm, which doesn’t cover all the places where the Easter weekend riots took place.

In the wake of the riots, police unions and the police’s chief safety representative had a meeting with the National Police Chief, Anders Tornberg, and demanded an evaluation of the police’s work. Katharina von Sydow now hopes that the tactics will be introduced everywhere.

“This concept must exist throughout the country”, she said.

During the Easter weekend around 200 people were involved in riots after a planned demonstration by anti-Muslim Danish politician Rasmus Paludan and his party Stram Kurs (Hard Line), that included the burning of the Muslim holy book, the Koran.

Police revealed on Friday that at least 104 officers were injured in counter-demonstrations that they say were hijacked by criminal gangs intent on targeting the police. 

Forty people were arrested and police are continuing to investigate the violent riots for which they admitted they were unprepared. 

Paludan’s application for another demonstration this weekend was rejected by police.

In Norway on Saturday, police used tear gas against several people during a Koran-burning demonstration after hundreds of counter-demonstrators clashed with police in the town of Sandefjord.