Several cases of sexual harassment and unwanted behavior in the police service have been uncovered in a new research project, carried out by researchers Dag Ellingsen and Ulla-Britt Lilleaas.
Grete Lien Metlid, head of Intelligence and Investigation (FEE) in the Oslo police district, says that the police district has zero tolerance when it comes to sexual harassment.
– This shows how important it is that this is taken seriously, and that we must not downplay it and think that this does not occur. I support the police director, says Grete Lien Metlid to Dagbladet.
Did not notify myself
Early in her political career, Metlid herself experienced being exposed to unwanted sexual attention, and she believes that it makes her more aware of how difficult it can be to give notice.
– When I was young, there were no warning channels and it was not a topic, says Grete Metlid.
She did not say what she was exposed to and she missed a warning channel.
– I have experienced that it can be difficult to say. Therefore, I am concerned about this as a leader and role model, that it is perceived as safe to say no and that we as leaders address this.
– Over the years, this has become a topic that there is more openness about, but what emerges now shows that we must work more with security and space to be able to speak out, says Metlid.
Joke, language and comments
Even though there are several warning channels today, this does not mean that they are easy to use, and more work must therefore be done with culture and management, Metlid believes.
– If you have a culture where you accept a lot of jokes, language and comments related to the body and sexuality, I understand that it can be difficult to say, she says.
In recent years, the Oslo Police District has implemented several measures to counteract sexual harassment, including dilemma training, topics in meetings and slogans, and employee surveys.
– What I am concerned about as a leader and woman in the police is that you should be able to speak out about things that are inappropriate, such as sexual harassment and unwanted sexual attention.
A male culture
Professor Ulla-Britt Lilleaas, who is behind the research project with Dag Ellingsen, highlights the skewed gender distribution as one of the reasons for the culture.
– It has traditionally been a male culture, and when women want to enter, it can feel threatening for men, Lilleaas says to Dagbladet.
– There has been a widespread culture of silence in parts of the agency, says Lilleaas.
In a press release on the police website, police director Benedicte Bjørnland says that she heard about abuse of position to achieve sexual acts in exchange for favorable guards or good references.
– I heard about party culture – and about the so-called “fuck-Thursday” at B3 camp (Bachelor police education – operational training during camp stays in the third year). Instructors ordered to teach camp must have had sexual intercourse with female students. This upsets me, says Bjørnland.
She emphasizes that the fact that instructors have had intimate relationships with students in a setting where power, authority and power relations are obviously skewed, is unacceptable and contrary to the agency’s values.
Now she wants to conduct an employee survey to get a picture of what the agency is facing.
– We owe it to our employees – and in particular those who have reported that they have been subjected to sexual harassment, that we clean up, says Bjørnland.