Three Shots in Ibsens Gate
2024 Finalist

Three Shots in Ibsens Gate

Bergens Tidende

Bergen, Norway

Category Newsroom Development

Overview of this campaign

When someone is injured or killed as a result of police use of force, there are clear rules. Were those followed in this particular case? And are they in general? That has been what Bergens Tidende has spent several years on finding out. But it all started with us telling the story of Morten Michelsen’s last hours alive.

The investigation relies on advanced journalistic methods. Through a prolonged access process, we obtained permission to read and transcribe (but not copy)the Special Unit's investigative materials. We solved the copy restriction with an old trick: Using baking paper to draw out details from the police photo files.  

Michelsen had an audio recorder on him during the last hours of his life, and we accessed the recording through his parents. This provided us with unprecedented documentation of what happened inside the apartment. Municipal building records and floor plans were combined with our own 3D scans to create a 3D model of the building and the street outside.

Audio and video were analyzed and placed on a digital timeline, and scenes were recreated in the 3D model, based on interrogations and reconstructions from the investigation. 

We needed as many pictures as possible. We contacted witnesses, and knocked on several hundred doors in the neighborhood, which consists of people with different languages. Therefore, we created flyers in four languages with a QR code that directed people directly to our tip portal. This provided us with indispensable documentation.

Our reconstruction is inspired by similar projects abroad. A video meeting with the journalists at The New York Times who were behind the story about Breonna Taylor helped us get started.

To extract as much information as possible from the audio recording, we utilized the services of Primeau Forensics in Detroit, which have conducted similar assignments for the FBI and similar law enforcement agencies worldwide. 

 

Results for this campaign

'Three Shots in Ibsens Gate' is the most-read story this year in BT Magazine, with 135,000 page views. By Bergens Tidende's standards, this is an exceptionally high number. The methods we've used have provided readers with unique documentation. 

After the first story was published, we continued investigating police shootings in Norway. As far as we know, this has never been done in such detail before.

Throughout our work, we've uncovered several problematic aspects of the relationship between the police and the Norwegian Special Unit. 

  • In every single fatal police shooting in Norway between 2010 and 2022 (seven in total), the involved police officers consulted with each other before interrogations, directly contradicting the Attorney General's instructions.

  • This practice could be a violation of human rights, according to the Attorney General. However.

  • In four out of the last five cases where police in the Vest police district shot someone, the Special Unit explicitly allowed conversations between the officers before they were interrogated.

  • The Special Unit has never informed the Attorney General that they let police officers talk before interrogations.

  • Most of the Special Unit's investigators are former police officers and members of the Police Union.

  • In a majority of the Special Unit's most serious cases, it is local police – colleagues of those being investigated – who conduct the crime scene work.

BT's work is ongoing, but consequences are already significant:

  • Norway's Justice Minister Emilie Enger Mehl is calling for new procedures.

  • The Attorney General affirms that the practice of pre-approved conversations before interrogations is unacceptable.

  • The Police Directorate is now creating the first national guidelines for handling personnel in shooting incidents, stressing the importance of keeping the officers separated until interrogation.

  • The Special Unit has stated that they will pay close attention to this issue in the future.

  • Assistant Attorney General Torunn Holmberg told BT in January that they are now looking at the need for clarifications in the circular that regulates the practice.


Contact

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