Flaws studied in Norway massacre response

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OSLO -- A year after a far-right militant's bomb and gun attacks exposed flaws in Norway's terror preparedness, police are being criticized for failing to improve their ability to stop a gunman bent on inflicting mass casualties.

In contrast to the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in Colorado, which led to sweeping changes in police tactics and training in the United States, the massacre of 77 people in July last year hasn't had a tangible impact on Norway's police force, critics say.

There have "hardly been any visible changes from July 22 [2011] and until today. That is what our members tell me," said Arne Johannessen, who heads Norway's union for police officers.

"Now things have to happen. Now both the leadership in the police and the politicians must take this seriously."

A government-appointed commission yesterday presented a long-awaited 500-page report outlining flaws -- and some bright spots -- in how police and other authorities responded to Norway's worst peacetime attacks.

The confessed gunman, right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik, set off a car bomb outside the government headquarters in Oslo, then drove to the Labor youth division's annual summer camp, disguised as a police officer, and opened fire. Eight people were killed in the explosion, while 69 people died in the massacre on Utoya island, in a lake 25 miles from the capital.

Breivik's shooting massacre lasted for more than an hour before he surrendered to a police anti-terror unit. He is awaiting sentencing on Aug. 24.

Police had already admitted to a series of blunders, including flaws in communication systems and the breakdown of an overloaded boat carrying the anti-terror squad. Norway's only police helicopter was left unused, its crew on vacation.

But the report also questioned the actions of the first officers to arrive on the shore of the lake, saying they received instructions to get an overview of the situation and await the anti-terror unit instead of trying to cross over to Utoya to confront the gunman.

Police Commissioner Oeystein Maeland said police will "critically review" procedures for dealing with an active shooter but added that so far officers haven't received any additional training on such situations.

"One of the questions we will look into is whether the training of ordinary police is extensive and good enough," he said.

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