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What is a ‘special incident’ in Sweden and what happens when police launch one?

Swedish police sometimes tell newspapers they have launched a 'special incident' in response to criminal acts. But what exactly does that mean, and how does it work?

What is a 'special incident' in Sweden and what happens when police launch one?
Erik Widstrand of the Stockholm police announcing a 'special incident' in response to an explosion on January 13th. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT
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In November 2019, police announced a “special national incident” to look into a recent spate of violent crime incidents including explosions and fatal shootings. And on January 13th, Stockholm police launched a special incident in response to a specific explosion in the upmarket Östermalm district.

But what does it mean?

A “special incident”, or särskild händelse in Swedish, can be launched to deal with a range of unexpected or sudden issues which the relevant police unit needs extra help and resources to deal with.

It means that a temporary task force is set up to focus solely on the specified problem, in this case violent crime. The commander-in-chief of the task force is given extra powers to make decisions and allocate resources.

According to Swedish police, the advantages of the approach include access to “more police officers or specialized skills” as well as making it easier to “reduce the load on ordinary police operations”.

The length of time that the task force operates depends on the incident. Police have said they expect this one to last for six months but this may be adjusted.

A särskild händelse might be run at the regional level, which is more common, or at the national level, in which case the police's national operations department Noa is responsible for its organization. For special regional incidents, regional police are responsible for the organization and may request support or extra resources from Noa, which has the final say in which help is approved.

The special incident introduced to deal with recent violent crime is a national one.

Previous examples of special national incidents in Sweden include those which dealt with the April 2017 Stockholm terror attack, the summer 2018 wildfires, the wave of migration in 2015, and then-US President Barack Obama's visit in 2013.

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Sweden Democrat politician charged for dismembering colleague

The former politician has been charged on suspicion of murdering his colleague in an apartment south of Stockholm, after police found body parts in three different locations in the capital.

Sweden Democrat politician charged for dismembering colleague

According to the prosecution, the body parts found in plastic bags in central Stockholm came from a man in his 60s murdered in an apartment in Nyköping, south of Stockholm.

The man is said to have been killed by a pistol shot to the head, after which the 60-year-old charged with the murder dismembered the body.

The suspected murderer, who newspaper Expressen reports is a former Sweden Democrat politician, is said to have moved the body parts multiple times, eventually dumping them across the city.

In total, three body parts were found in two different locations – the Karlsberg canal and in the Djurgården park. Not all parts of the body have yet been found.

“We’ve carried out a comprehensive investigation into the victim and the suspect. We can, to some extent, show how and when the suspect moved the body parts,” prosecutor Marina Chirakova told TT.

The victim, who according to Expressen was also a former Sweden Democrat politician, had been friends with the suspected murderer for a number of years. Prosecutors did not comment on the motive behind the murder.

“That will be discussed in the main hearings,” she told TT.

The suspect was taken into custody in November last year after being arrested in Nyköping. He denies the charges, but accepts certain circumstances related to the case.

Upon his arrest, he resigned from his political obligations and his membership was frozen by the Sweden Democrats.

“I don’t want to comment on his stance on the charges or anything he has said,” she further told TT.

The murder is suspected to have taken place between August 30th and September 16th last year.