Iceland’s Police Academy at the University of Akureyri will accept 50% more students this fall, a measure intended to solve a shortage of police officers in the country, RÚV reports. Minister of Justice Jón Gunnarsson has stated that the safety of civilians is ensured in Iceland, but it is nevertheless important to take measures to address the staffing shortage. Iceland has the second-lowest number of police officers per capita of any European country.
A recent study found staffing shortages in rural police departments in Iceland mean that police often to turn to members of the public to assist with law enforcement work. Due to a lack of human resources and the long distance that would often be required to travel for backup or additional assistance, rural police officers often, for example, ask those present to help direct traffic in the event of a car accident or turn to local Search and Rescue squads for help.
“Arrangements have already been made at the University of Akureyri, which trains policemen, to increase the number of students by 50% from next autumn,” the Minister of Justice stated. “It takes some time, to work up to having educated police officers, and there is also a shortage of educated police officers in certain departments in the countryside.”
A working group is currently investigating whether there are ways to better distribute policing in order to address the staff shortage. The Minister of Justice stated that more funding would be allocated to the issue in the spring budget bill. He also added that the shortening of the work week that took effect might have to be reconsidered.
“We need to look at the fact that there have been many doubts in this sphere whether the shortening of the workweek has been a wise measure. We need to look at how to that develops but it puts an increased demand on human resources, that is absolutely clear.”
Policing has been in the media spotlight in Iceland this month following two shootings that occurred just days apart in Reykjavík. The Minister of Justice is examining whether to arm local police with tasers. Philosopher Gústav Adolf Bergmann Sigurbjörnsson has argued that solving staffing issues and increasing police training is a better way to ensure the safety of both police officers and civilians than to arm the police with additional weapons.