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Icelandic Police

The Icelandic Police (Capital Region[4] and its total population of around 208,000 people.[5]


  • History 1
    • Origins 1.1
    • Post 1900 1.2
    • First-ever shooting death 1.3
  • Ranks 2
  • Equipment 3
    • Uniform 3.1
    • Weaponry 3.2
      • Firearms 3.2.1
    • Transport 3.3
      • Vehicles 3.3.1
  • Organisation 4
  • Intelligence services 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7



The Icelandic Police can trace its origins to 1778 when the first traces of industry started to appear. Up until that time, the law had been enforced first by individuals permitted to do so by the Althing and then by sýslumenn (sheriffs) and other Royal proxies.[6]

The first Icelandic policemen are considered to be the morningstar armed night-watchmen of Reykjavík who were commissioned primarily to deter the prisoners of the Reykjavík prison from breaking into the Innréttingarnar.[7]

In 1803, the first proper policemen were commissioned in Reykjavík as it became a free town or kaupstaður. The first police chief was Rasmus Frydensberg, the town mayor, who hired two former soldiers, Ole Biørn and Vilhelm Nolte, as the first policemen. It was not until shortly after 1891 that policemen were hired in most of the other areas of Iceland.[8]

Post 1900

In 1933 Alþingi passed the Police Act which provided state participation in financing of police forces. This was done mostly in response to the threat of a communist revolution, whose capabilities had become apparent in violent attempt to force the decisions of the Reykjavík city council, where a large part of the police forces went out of action as a result of physical injury. The act also authorized the Minister of Justice and Ecclesiastical affairs to call out reserves in critical situations.[9]

In 1972 the state took over command of law enforcement in Iceland, creating the National Police and in 1977 State Criminal Investigation Police started operations under a special Director. The State Investigation Police took over investigations of criminal activities that previously were under the control of the Reykjavík Criminal Court and police commissioners in the Capital Region.[10] National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police was formed in 1997 and State Criminal Investigation Police was decommissioned.[11]

First-ever shooting death

On December 2, 2013, a person died due to an armed police operation for the first time in Iceland's modern history. Police had responded to reports of shotgun fire in an apartment in Árbær, a Reykjavík suburb.[12] Initially tear gas was used in an attempt to subdue the gunman,[13] a 50-year-old man, but it failed to affect him.

When an armed police team entered the apartment in question, two officers were injured by shotgun fire. One officer was holding a ballistic shield which got hit. The other officer got hit in the head, but was wearing a ballistic helmet. This led to other officers returning fire. The gunman was taken to the hospital, where he died. National Police Commissioner Haraldur Johannessen immediately apologised to the man's family, calling the incident "unprecedented"[14] The shooter's motives were not immediately clear, though some neighbours reported the gunman was making threats towards them.[15] An investigation into this incident was launched, and the guns involved on all sides were seized. Counseling was offered to the officers involved.[16]


# Title English translation
1 Ríkislögreglustjóri National Police Commissioner
2 Vararíkislögreglustjóri Deputy National Police Commissioner
Lögreglustjóri Police Commissioner
Skólastjóri Lögregluskóla ríkisins Director of the Police Academy
3 Varalögreglustjóri í Reykjavík Deputy Commissioner of Reykjavík
Staðgengill Ríkislögreglustjóra Deputy National Police Commissioner
4 Yfirlögregluþjónn (Detective) Chief Superintendent
5 Aðstoðaryfirlögregluþjónn (Detective) Superintendent
6 Aðalvarðstjóri Chief Inspector
Lögreglufulltrúi Detective Chief Inspector
7 Varðstjóri Inspector
Rannsóknarlögreglumaður Detective Inspector
8 Lögreglumaður Police Constable
9 Lögreglunemi Police Cadet
Afleysingamaður í lögreglu Temporary Replacement Police Constable
Héraðslögreglumaður Temporarily hired constable



The Icelandic police wears black uniforms marked with traditional black and white checked markings and the Icelandic police star. The working uniform varies from a traditional service uniform (shirt and trousers) to tactical overalls. The old traditional Icelandic service uniform is now used as a dress uniform. The trousers patrol officers use are made from a fire-resistant material.[17]


Although Icelandic police officers carry only extendable batons and MK-4 OC-spray (pepper spray) whilst on duty, they are trained in the use of firearms and are issued firearms in certain situations.[18] Competition shooting with handguns is common within the police. Some of the patrol vehicles are equipped with firearms, longer batons, riot shields and spike strips; the Reykjavík Metropolitan Police, however, do not have firearms in their vehicles, rather it is primarily the special operations team, the Víkingasveitin, and the police out in the more remote areas of the country.[19][20]



In Iceland, police vehicles are white with the Icelandic word for "police", Lögreglan, written in blue letters. The cars also have blue and red stripes with the Icelandic police star overlaying the stripes on the front doors. The sides of the cars are also marked with blue and yellow angular stripes. All markings are of reflective material and the emergency lights are all blue.[21][22]

Volvo S80 D5 police car

The National Police Commissioner owns all of the vehicles used by the police districts around the country. Regional districts rent their vehicles from the National Police Commissioner, paying a per-kilometre charge to cover operating costs, etc. for a period of five years.[23] The Víkingasveitin uses the Volvo XC90 and Volvo XC70 as well as other unmarked vehicles that have been modified for tactical operations.[24][25]



There are 9 police district in Iceland which follow the regions of Iceland with the addition of Vestmannaeyjar being its own district. The current police district division is stipulated by the Regulation on Police Districts of the Police Commissioner which was signed 4 December 2014 by Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson who acted as Minister of Justice temporarily within the Ministry of the Interior due to a scandal.[26] The headquarters are administrative centres for their respective district and regular police stations.[27]

# District Headquarters Police stations
1 Capital Region Capital Region unspecified
Municipal jurisdiction: Seltjarnarnesbær, Mosfellsbær, Kjósarhreppur, Hafnarfjarðarkaupstaður, Garðabær and Kópavogsbær.
2 Western Region Borgarnes Akranes, Stykkishólmur, Búðardalur, Ólafsvík, Grundarfjörður
Municipal jurisdiction: Snæfellsbær, Eyja- og Miklaholtshreppur, Grundarfjarðarbær, Helgafellssveit, Stykkishólmsbær and Dalabyggð.
3 Westfjords Ísafjörður Patreksfjörður, Hólmavík
Municipal jurisdiction: Reykhólahreppur, Vesturbyggð, Tálknafjarðarhreppur, Bolungarvíkurkaupstaður, Ísafjarðarbær, Súðavíkurhreppur, Árneshreppur, Kaldrananeshreppur and Strandabyggð.
4 Northwestern Region Sauðárkrókur Blönduós
Municipal jurisdiction: Húnaþing vestra, Húnavatnshreppur, Blönduósbær, Sveitarfélagið Skagaströnd, Skagabyggð, Sveitarfélagið Skagafjörður and Akrahreppur.
5 Northeastern Region Akureyri Húsavík, Siglufjörður, Dalvík, Þórshöfn
Municipal jurisdiction: Fjallabyggð, Dalvíkurbyggð, Hörgársveit, Akureyrarkaupstaður, Eyjafjarðarsveit, Svalbarðsstrandarhreppur, Grýtubakkahreppur, Þingeyjarsveit, Skútustaðahreppur, Norðurþing, Tjörneshreppur, Svalbarðshreppur and Langanesbyggð.
6 Eastern Region Eskifjörður Egilsstaðir, Seyðisfjörður, Vopnafjörður, Neskaupstaður, Fáskrúðsfjörður, Djúpivogur, Höfn
Municipal jurisdiction: Seyðisfjarðarkaupstaður, Fjarðabyggð, Breiðdalshreppur and Djúpavogshreppur.
7 Southern Region Hvolsvöllur Selfoss, Vík, Kirkjubæjarklaustur
Municipal jurisdiction: Flóahreppur, Skeiða- og Gnúpverjahreppur, Hrunamannahreppur, Bláskógabyggð, Grímsnes- og Grafningshreppur, Hveragerðisbær and Sveitarfélagið Ölfus.
8 Vestmannaeyjar Vestmannaeyjabær unspecified
Municipal jurisdiction: Vestmannaeyjabær.
9 Southern Peninsula Reykjanesbær Grindavík, Sandgerði, Garður, Vogar, Leif Eiriksson Air Terminal
Municipal jurisdiction: Grindavíkurbær, Sandgerðisbær, Sveitarfélagið Garður, Reykjanesbær and Sveitarfélagið Vogar.

Intelligence services

In 1939, at the orders of then Prime Minister Hermann Jónasson, the State Police and the Útlendingaeftirlitið (Foreigner monitoring agency) founded a Security department or eftirgrennslanadeild. This service was founded primarily to monitor Nazi scientists in Iceland as well as communists. After World War II, this service had the embassies of communist countries under surveillance and compiled lists of communist sympathizers and potential saboteurs or terrorists. It was not until 2006 that this service was officially acknowledged, after having been known to only a handful of men for more than 60 years, after historians were granted limited access to secret documents.

The National Commissioner's National Security Unit (Greiningardeild Ríkislögreglustjóra) is currently responsible for internal intelligence activities.

See also


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  7. ^ The Icelandic Police: A Historic Sketch, p. 9-10.
  8. ^ The Icelandic Police: A Historic Sketch, p. 15.
  9. ^ The Icelandic Police: A Historic Sketch, p. 24.
  10. ^ The Icelandic Police: A Historic Sketch, p. 25.
  11. ^ The Icelandic Police: A Historic Sketch, p. 32.
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