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Law enforcement in Iceland

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Title: Law enforcement in Iceland  
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Law enforcement in Iceland

Icelandic National Police
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
  • Law enforcement
  • Civilian police
Operational structure
Elected officer responsible Ögmundur Jónasson, Minister of the Interior
Agency executive Haraldur Jóhannessen, National Commissioner
Police cars and motorcycles ca. 300+ (2012)

The Icelandic National Police (Icelandic: Ríkislögreglan) is the main police force of Iceland. It is responsible for law enforcement on all Icelandic territories except at sea where the Icelandic Coast Guard enforces the law. The two services assist each other as needed.


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 Althing and later by sýslumenn (sheriffs) and other Royal proxies.

The first Icelandic policemen are considered to be the morningstar armed nightwatchmen of Reykjavík who were commissioned primarily to deter prisoners, housed in the Reykjavik prison, from breaking into the Innréttingarnar.

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.

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 Reykjavik 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.

In 1939 prime minister Hermann Jónasson hired Agnar Kofoed-Hansen as police chief. Agnar had received officer training in the Danish army and proceeded to give the police military training. Considerable amounts of weapons were purchased from abroad as well, including revolvers and sub-machine guns. It was also planned to train the police reserves and thus create some sort of military defence forces, but this was cut short when the United Kingdom invaded Iceland in 1940.

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 Greater Reykjavík Area. National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police was formed in 1997 and State Criminal Investigation Police was decommissioned


Rank Title Icelandic title
1 National Commissioner Ríkislögreglustjóri
2 Deputy National Commissioner Vararíkislögreglustjóri
Police Commissioner Lögreglustjóri
Director of the Police College Skólastjóri Lögregluskóla ríkisins
3 Deputy Commissioner Varalögreglustjóri í Reykjavík
Staðgengill lögreglustjóra
4 Chief Superintendent/Detective Chief Superintendent Yfirlögregluþjónn
5 Superintendent/Detective Superintendent Aðstoðaryfirlögregluþjónn
6 Chief Inspector Aðalvarðstjóri
Detective Chief Inspector Lögreglufulltrúi
7 Inspector Varðstjóri
Detective Inspector Rannsóknarlögreglumaður
8 Brevet Inspector Staðgengill Varðstjóra
9 Policeman/Constable Lögreglumaður
10 Trainee Lögreglunemi
Temporarily Employed Policeman Afleysingamaður í lögreglu
Reservist Héraðslögreglumaður



The Icelandic police wears black uniforms marked with traditional black and white checked markings and the Icelandic police morning 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.


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. Competition shooting with handguns is common within the police. Some of the patrol vehicles are equipped with firearms, longer batons, riot shields and spikestrips.



In Iceland police vehicles are white with blue-lettered marking "Lögreglan" which is Icelandic for the Police. 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 was 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 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. 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) administers the police under authorization of the Minister.

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 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.

The Icelandic Intelligence Service

At the orders of the prime minister Hermann Jónasson in 1939 the State Police and the Útlendingaeftirlitið (Foreigner monitoring agency) founded a Security department or eftirgrennslanadeild. 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


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