National Police Commissioner Haraldur Johannessen says his comments about corruption within the Icelandic police force have been exaggerated, Vísir reports. The comments, made in a Morgunblaðið interview less than two weeks ago, appeared to be the final straw for many working under Haraldur, who have accused him of bullying and financial mismanagement. Eight out of nine regional Police Commissioners, as well as the Police Federation of Iceland, now say they no longer trust Haraldur to continue in his position.
“My words about corruption have unexpectedly taken flight and have been expanded in order to claim I have said there is rampant general corruption within the police force. I have never said that, neither in this interview nor anywhere else,” the National Police Commissioner stated. While he has explained the comments as referencing the GRECO report on anti-corruption, the connection is unclear in Haraldur’s words, which appear to refer to more personal issues.
Haraldur’s position has been under consideration by the Ministry of Justice since this summer. At least two special forces officers have lodged complaints regarding bullying on the part of Haraldur, which the Ministry is also looking into. The Ministry has also hired an outside human resources specialists to address the issue.
Should have received a warning
Early this summer, Haraldur sent letters to journalists Björn Jón Bragason and Sigurður Kolbeinsson protesting their coverage of the police’s Financial Crimes Department in their book Gjaldeyriseftirlitið – vald án eftirlits? (Foreign Exchange Control – power without surveillance?). The letters were written on official letterhead from the Office of the Police Commissioner and signed by Haraldur and two former employees of the office. They accused the journalists of committing “unlawful harm” to their subjects.
Björn and Sigurður complained to Parliamentary Ombudsman Tryggvi Gunnarsson about the letters, which they consider represent veiled threats. Tryggvi has requested the Ministry of Justice explain why Haraldur did not receive a warning for these letters, which used official letterhead to address a personal affair. The Ministry previously ruled that the purpose of the letters was to protect Haraldur’s personal interests and using official letterhead was therefore a violation, yet it did not in any way reprimand Haraldur for the action.
“There have to be repercussions when public officials behave in this way,” Björn stated. “We can’t just live with that in a constitutional state that public officials can violate civilians without it having any repercussions.”