Police cars in the greater Reykjavík area will be equipped with handguns in special gun safes, beginning mid-December, Vísir reports.
This change marks the end of three years of training among the regular police force, which includes, but is not limited to, weapons training. Until now, only the Special Unit of the National Police Commissioner, or so-called Viking Squad, has been armed.
According to Chief Superintendent Ásgeir Þór Ágeirssonar at the Greater Reykjavík Police, the purpose of the change is to shorten the response time of armed police officers, since it can take a while for the Special Unit to arrive to the scene.
Police cars will also be equipped with protection gear, such as helmets and bulletproof vests.
Police officers will not have access to the guns unless their superior provides them with an access code to the safe, after having been informed of the situation. The superior will evaluate each situation before giving out the code.
“Nothing has been determined regarding other types of weapons,” Ásgeir explains, ”and the rules would have to be changed for machine guns to be placed in the cars.” He doesn’t want to speculate on whether safes will be installed in every police car, but confirms that new police cars will be equipped with one.
“Police officers in Iceland want to remain unarmed, but want to do their job well and be able to defend themselves and come to the defense of others in society,” he concludes.
The debate on whether police in Iceland should carry guns has been reignited following the Paris Attacks. Last Thursday, Morgunblaðið quoted Chief Superintendent Jón F. Bjartmarz, at the National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police, as saying, “We need more people and we need equipment so the police can manage their security job.”
It was reported in October last year that police authorities had imported a large number of guns to Iceland despite no discussion on increasing the police and Coast Guard’s firepower having taken place in parliament.
It later came to light that the Norwegian army expected significant payment for the weapons, while the Icelandic Coast Guard had always maintained the weapons had been a gift. The decision to send the weapons back was made because it was out of the question to use limited funds on buying guns, the Coast Guard said.