Icelandic Police

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Icelandic Police
Icelandic police star (logo).jpg
Official insignia
Motto Með lögum skal land byggja.
A country shall be built by law.
Agency overview
Formed 1778
Employees ca. 805 (2011)
Legal personality Governmental: Government agency
Jurisdictional structure
National agency Iceland
Size 103,000 km2
Population 320,000
Governing body Icelandic government
General nature
Operational structure
Elected officer responsible Hanna Birna Kristjánsdóttir, Minister of the Interior
Agency executive Haraldur Jóhannessen, National Commissioner
Police cars and motorcycles ca. 300+ (2012)

The Icelandic Police (Icelandic: Lögreglan) is responsible for law enforcement on all Icelandic territory except at sea where the Icelandic Coast Guard enforces the law. The two services assist each other as needed. The Icelandic Police is divided into 15 different districts, which all answer to the Office of the National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police (Icelandic: Embætti ríkislögreglustjóra). The district with the largest population of citizens is the Reykjavík Metropolitan Police (Icelandic: Lögreglan á höfuðborgarsvæðinu), which patrols the Capital Region, which has around 200,000 citizens.



The Icelandic Police can trace its origins to 1778, when the first traces of industry started to appear. In the times before that law had been enforced by individuals as allowed by the Althing and later by sýslumenn (sheriffs) and other Royal proxies.[1]

The first Icelandic policemen are considered to be the morningstar armed night-watchmen of Reykjavík who were commissioned primarily to deter prisoners, housed in the Reykjavík prison, from breaking into the Innréttingarnar(is).[2]

In 1803 the first proper policemen were commissioned in Reykjavík as it became a free town or kaupstaður(is). 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.[3]

Post 1900[edit]

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.[4]

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.[5] National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police was formed in 1997 and State Criminal Investigation Police was decommissioned.[6]

First-ever shooting death[edit]

On December 2, 2013, a person died due to an armed police operation for the first time in Iceland's history. Police had responded to reports of shotgun fire in an apartment in Árbær, a Reykjavík suburb.[7] Initially tear gas was used in an attempt to subdue the gunman,[8] 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 the officer was wearing a ballistic helmet, which 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"[9] The shooter's motives were not immediately clear, though some neighbours reported the gunman was making threats towards them.[10] An investigation into this incident was launched, and the guns involved on all sides were seized. Counseling is being offered to the officers involved.[11]


Order Title Picture English translation
1. Ríkislögreglustjóri Iceland-police-national-commissioner National Police Commissioner
2. Vararíkislögreglustjóri
Skólastjóri Lögregluskóla ríkisins
Iceland-police-commissioner Deputy National Police Commissioner
Police Commissioner
Director of the Police Academy
3. Varalögreglustjóri í Reykjavík
Staðgengill Ríkislögreglustjóra
Iceland-police-assistant-commissioner Deputy Commissioner
4. Yfirlögregluþjónn Iceland-police-1997-with-id-number-5 Chief Superintendent/Detective Chief Superintendent
5. Aðstoðaryfirlögregluþjónn Iceland-police-1997-with-id-number-4 Superintendent/Detective Superintendent
6. Aðalvarðstjóri
Iceland-police-1997-with-id-number-3 Chief Inspector
Detective Chief Inspector
7. Varðstjóri
Iceland-police-1997-with-id-number-2 Inspector
Detective Inspector
8. Lögreglumaður Iceland-police-1997-with-id-number Police Officer/Constable
9. Lögreglunemi
Afleysingamaður í lögreglu
Iceland-police-cadet-insignia Trainee
Temporarily Employed Policeman
Temporarily Employed Policeman (not graduated from the police academy)

The numbers at the bottom explain when you graduated from the police academy. So for example 9605 means he/she graduated from the police academy in 1996 and was the 5th to graduate from the academy.



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.

Duty belt[edit]

A standard police officer on patrol normally carries an expendable baton and an MK-4 OC-spray (pepper spray) canister. They do however also carry a pair of rubber gloves, pocket knife, hand cuffs (and/or, in some situations plastic handcuffs) and a small LED Maglite flashlight.


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.[12]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 does not have firearms in the vehicles. It's primarily the special operations team, the Víkingasveitin, and the police out in the more remote areas of the country.



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. Until few years ago the red stripe was thinner and black, probably what was left of the time when the whole bottom half of the police cars were black, and that probably what was left of the time when the police cars were all black. In recent times, blue and yellow angular stripes on the sides of the cars have also been applied. All markings are of reflective material. Today the emergency lights are all blue, but in the past they were all red.

The riot division in the Reykjavík metropolitan police often rents vehicles from car rental agencies for operations, due to lack of funding. The riot division is the unit that is outside the Icelandic congress with shields and is not to be confused with the Víkingasveitin.

The National Police Commissioner owns all of the vehicles that are being used by the police districts around the country. The police districts then rent them from the National Police Commissioner.[13] The Víkingasveitin uses the Volvo XC90 and Volvo XC70 as well as other unmarked vehicles that have been modified for tactical operations.



The Icelandic Police is under the supreme command of the Minister of the Interior and the National Police Commissioner (Ríkislögreglustjórinn(is)) administers the police under authorization of the Minister.[14]

The National Police Commissioner, with headquarters in Reykjavík, maintains inquisitorial divisions, such as the National Security Unit, as well as the independently operated tactical operations unit, the Víkingasveitin, and the Prison Service. The police is further divided into 15 districts of various sizes and responsibilities. The districts follow the old county boundaries or sýslumörk.

Icelandic Intelligence Service[edit]

At the orders of the Prime Minister Hermann Jónasson in 1939 the State Police and the Útlendingaeftirlitið(is) (Foreigner monitoring agency) founded a Security department or eftirgrennslanadeild(is). This service was founded primarily to monitor Nazi German 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.

Currently the National Commissioner's National Security Unit (Greiningardeild Ríkislögreglustjóra) handles internal intelligence activities.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Icelandic Police: A Historic Sketch" (PDF). The National Commissioner of Police. April 2003. p. 6. Retrieved 4 December 2013. 
  2. ^ Historic Sketch, p. 9-10.
  3. ^ Historic Sketch, p. 15.
  4. ^ Historic Sketch, p. 24.
  5. ^ Historic Sketch, p. 25.
  6. ^ Historic Sketch, p. 32.
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ "Icelandic Police and Justice System" (PDF). The National Commissioner of Police. September 2005. p. 10. Retrieved 4 December 2013. 
  13. ^ "The Office of The National Commissioner of Police: An Introduction" (PDF). The National Commissioner of Police. October 2004. p. 27. Retrieved 4 December 2013. 
  14. ^ Icelandic Police and Justice System, p. 6