Minister Questions Police Pepper Spray Use

Minister of Social Affairs and Labour Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson has called for an investigation into police decision making when pepper spray was used against protesters in downtown Reykjavík yesterday, Vísir reports.

Pro-Palestine protest

The protest in support of Palestine took place outside a meeting of government ministers and was organised in part by the Iceland-Palestine Association. Police said they were forced to use pepper spray as protesters obstructed ministerial vehicles and refused to disband, but videos show pepper spray use after the road was cleared and against protesters who appeared to be cooperating. Ten protesters were injured and a police officer was hit by a ministerial vehicle.

Right to protest

Guðmundur Ingi is handling the Prime Minister’s duties while Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson is meeting with Nordic heads of government in Sweden. He announced in a Facebook post that he had tasked the Permanent Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Office with looking into the protocols and decisions of the Reykjavík Metropolitan Police. “They led to force being used against citizens who were exercising their democratic right to protest while the cabinet was meeting,” Guðmundur Ingi wrote.

Custody Over Suspects in Hafnarfjörður Shooting Extended

police station reykjavík

The Metropolitan Police has extended the custody of two men involved in a December shooting in Hafnarfjörður by one week. An investigation into the incident is ongoing, Vísir reports.

Custody set to expire on January 11

As noted in an announcement by the Metropolitan Police, the custody of two men who fired shots in Hafnarfjörður in December has been extended by one week.

The incident occurred inside an apartment in Hafnarfjörður on Christmas Eve, where residents were present but unharmed. Initially, three individuals were arrested, although one was released on December 27. There was a significant police presence at the scene. 

The investigation of the case is ongoing, and the custody of the two men is set to expire on January 11, unless further extended.

Fourteen Prostitution Cases Reported in Iceland This Year

Chief Superintendent Grímur Grímsson

Fourteen prostitution-related offences have been reported to the police in 2023, with only a few leading to fines or prosecutions. The head of the central investigative department with the Metropolitan Police has told RÚV that the police lacks sufficient manpower to adequately investigate such cases

A total of 562 cases since the enactment

Fourteen cases of prostitution-related offences have been brought to the police for investigation this year. This was disclosed in responses from the Minister of Justice to queries by Brynhildur Björnsdóttir, deputy member of Parliament for the Left-Green Movement.

As noted on the Parliament’s website, the response indicates that of these cases, two have been subjected to fine procedures and three to prosecution. No verdict has been delivered in any of the cases that emerged this year.

As noted by Vísir, Brynhildur had inquired about the number of prostitution offences committed since the enactment of Law 54/2009, which criminalises the purchase of sexual services and provides penalties of fines or up to one year of imprisonment for those who buy or attempt to buy sex. Since 2009, there have been a total of 562 such cases.

Of these, 82 underwent fine procedures, 251 faced prosecution, and verdicts have been reached in 104 of the cases. The Minister’s response also notes the difficulty in compiling information on convictions or acquittals due to the extensive work entailed.

Rare for victims of prostitution to press charges

As noted by RÚV, the number of cases that have been subjected to prosecution procedures has declined significantly since 2013. That year, 126 cases were subject to prosecution and a verdict was delivered in 64 of those cases. Since then, prosecutory actions have been pursued much more infrequently and a verdict in such cases has only been delivered nine times.  

In an interview with RÚV published this morning, Drífa Snædal, spokesperson for Stígamót (a centre for survivors of sexual violence that provides free and confidential counselling), asserted that the statistical data do not align with the actual scale of the offences; the staff at Stígamót feel that incidents of prostitution have increased in recent years, with Drífa pointing to the number of websites offering services of prostitutes.

According to Stígamót’s annual report, 18 individuals sought help from the centre last year due to prostitution. The report notes that processing the traumatic experiences associated with prostitution often takes a long time.

As noted by RÚV, a likely explanation for the low rate of legal action in such cases, as presented in the response from the Minister of Justice, is that these matters are not a priority for the police. Cases often need to be actively sought out because it is rare for victims of prostitution to directly approach police stations to press charges against purchasers.

Drífa also noted that court proceedings in such cases are always closed, which she finds incomprehensible; the identity of the perpetrator never becomes public, which does not affect the victim’s standing in society. Meanwhile, the self-blame experienced by those in prostitution is significant, with victims often holding themselves responsible and resorting to prostitution out of some form of desperation.

Lacking sufficient manpower

Grímur Grímsson, head of the central investigative unit of the Metropolitan Police, told RÚV that the police lacked sufficient manpower to adequately address these cases.

Grímur agreed that there were a significant number of websites offering prostitution services in Iceland and not enough manpower to investigate. He mentioned that the increase in violent crime in recent years had also played a role in this regard. “Violent crime cases take a lot of time, and they are urgent. But it is a matter of prioritisation; hopefully, we can do better in the new year,” Grímur observed.

Pence Visit Three Times as Expensive as Merkel and Nordic Leaders

US Vice President Mike Pence.

The Metropolitan Police’s expense over US Vice President Mike Pence’s seven-hour visit to Iceland last week was triple the amount spent during German Chancellor Angela Merkel and all the Nordic Prime Ministers’ two-day visit in August, according to the Police’s answer to RÚV’s inquiry.

Extensive preparations were made during Pece’s official visit, with street closures and a multitude of police officers gathered at Höfði House, where Pence met with President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, Minister of Foreign Affairs Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson, and Mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson. Snipers were also visible atop surrounding buildings.

The Metropolitan Police expense ran just over 14 million ISK (EUR 102,456 – USD113,783). This is not including the cost of police officers from South- and North Iceland, as well as travel and accommodation costs.

A few days earlier, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Iceland along with the prime ministers of all the Nordic countries, the Lawman of the Faroe Islands, the Premier of Greenland, and the Governor of the Åland Islands. They spent two days in the country. Merkel attracted attention when she took a stroll through the city centre and went shopping. According to the Metropolitan Police, their expenses over the Nordic and German leaders amounted to 5.5 million ISK (EUR 39,965 – USD 44,383) or just over one-third of the Pence visit.

Police Monitor Nationalist Group in City Centre


Police made one arrest when 10-15 members of nationalist group Norðurvígi gathered in the city centre today, Vísir reports. The Norðurvígi representatives carried flags and pamphlets which they tried to distribute to pedestrians.

The group marched down Skólavörðurstígur and Bankastræti before moving towards Lækjartorg. The police interfered with the gathering and one member was arrested when he refused to identify himself. He later gave the police his name and was subsequently released.

According to Guðmundur Pétur Guðmundsson, a police officer with the metropolitan police, the police didn’t break up the gathering but monitored the proceedings.

Norðurvígi is a part of a “Nordic resistance group”, operating in Sweden, Norway and Denmark. The group has been called a neo-Nazi organization.

According to onlookers, the group tried to distribute their booklets to little enthusiasm from the people on the street.

The Norðurvígi website states that the group is a civilian and legal government opposition movement. The group wants to stop mass immigration and take every action to remove international Zionists from power as they “through money or power control a large group of this world.”

Reykjavík Police Force to Wear Body Cameras

A body camera attached to a police vest.

The Reykjavík Metropolitan Police has bought 40 new body cameras that were put into use for the first time last weekend. According to Chief Superintendent Ásgeir Þór Ásgeirsson, their purpose is to provide better evidence. Recordings will show police officers’ side of events and clear all doubts about what happens at a crime scene.

The Metropolitan police started using ten body cameras as an experiment in 2016. Early this year, a decision was made to increase the number of cameras and recently, just under 40 cameras were bought. “So the police force has around 50 cameras from last Friday on.” According to Ásgeir, there are now enough cameras for all working police officers to be issued as body camera at the start of their shift, as well as extra cameras for the city centre police over the weekends and other projects that may come up. Their purpose is first and foremost to acquire evidence.

“And, of course, we’ve had a few difficult cases recently where we would have wanted to have a video recording of events to show the side of the police officer in order to eliminate all doubts over what happened in the scene,” Ásgeir told Vísir.

The police have been calling for increased surveillance for a while. Police cars have cameras both on the interior and exterior, there are cameras in police stations, and cells and the body cameras are the last link in the chain, according to Ásgeir.

“I think that in the end, having this footage will save us money but each camera costs more than 100,000 ISK,” says Ásgeir.

Camera usage protocol is being written and will be published in the next few days. “ The protocol will deal with all usage, custody, and archiving of the data. Police officers will not be able to delete the video recordings,” says Ásgeir.

Each camera is assigned to a police officer at the start of their shift and once their shift is over, it will upload the footage into the police’s central database.

“The police officer is always the one who presses record but once the cameras have been introduced, we will want to have as much footage as we can,” says Ásgeir.

Police Dogs Attend Training in North Iceland

K9 sniffer dogs

Icelandic police are currently training a new generation of sniffer dogs, RÚV reports. While there are currently seven detection dogs in use across the country, many of them are approaching retirement age. In order to renew the ranks, a new group of K9 recruits and their human partners are attending a course in Sauðárkrókur, Northwest Iceland.

It’s the first course of its kind held in Iceland in five years. Steinar Gunnarsson, head of police dog training, says that is about to change, as the course will be held yearly from now on. He hopes that within two years, every police division in the country will have at least one canine helper. London’s Metropolitan Police Service will perform quality control to ensure the dogs are at their best.

Craig Calthorpe, a dog trainer from the UK who was teaching at the course, had good things to say about Iceland’s four-legged detectives-in-training. “The dogs are focused, they’re concentrated, they’ve got a nice amount of drive, their enthusiasm to search is really good,” he stated.

Snjólaug Eyrún Guðmundsdóttir, a police officer from East Iceland, is attending the course alongside Bylur, who she got paired with last November. Snjólaug says the training is going well. The partnership extends beyond the office, she explains, as K9 officers live at home with their human partners. “He’s just a part of my home and is just like another child,” Snjólaug stated. “We go to work together and spend the day together, and all our free time too, it’s just great.”