It’s 11:30 PM on a Sunday night and the police have just replied to a question posted on their wall one hour earlier. “My girlfriend and I are in France and I bought her pepper spray so that she could protect herself. Why is it illegal for women in Iceland to carry pepper spray in their purse as a precautionary measure?” Snorri Arnar Sveinsson asked.
“Greetings Snorri,” the police responded. “It’s not really our place to elaborate on this as the police don’t make the laws. Pepper spray, however, has likely been looked at like other weapons, which could become dangerous in the wrong hands. As a police officer, I don’t recommend that anybody carry such spray without proper training. The use of pepper spray can be tricky and it could easily cause greater harm to the one using it if used incorrectly.”
The Reykjavík Metropolitan police don’t carry guns, but they are armed with pepper spray, extendable batons and iPads. Yes, iPads. The police bought eleven of them last summer at 85,000 ISK a pop so that they could, as Chief of Police Stefán Eiríksson told DV at the time, better update their Facebook page, which they created in 2010.
So savvy are the police when it comes to social media that they are one of the finalists in the international ConnectedCOPS Awards, which will be decided this September. “With 22,000 followers on Facebook in a country of 320,000, it’s one of the largest followings, per capita in the world,” ConnectedCOPS says in their profile of the Reykjavík Metropolitan police.
WHAT ARE THEY DOING ON FACEBOOK?
In addition to fielding questions such as the one posed by Snorri, the police post all kinds of status updates, ranging from the helpful to the arguably useless, although somewhat entertaining. I mean, who doesn’t enjoy watching a poorly lit 14-second video of the police enjoying fireworks on Culture Night?
Sometimes they post simultaneously entertaining and helpful statues. For instance, they posted that a black iPod Nano had found its way to the police station in Hafnarfjörður last week: “…its owner is called Edda. Edda can call 444-1140. We don’t know where and when it was found though.”
In another, yet stranger, lost and found case, they posted: “A large number of stuffed animals, which were all found in the same place, are at the Reykjavík police station lost and found…Ownership claims must be verified.” This was accompanied by a photo of a bunch of pink stuffed animal rabbits, only highlighting the bizarre.
Other times they post stats: “Seventeen drivers were ticketed for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs in the capital area over the weekend. Twelve were stopped in Reykjavík, three in Kópavogur and one in Garðabær and Hafnarfjörður. Five were ticketed on Saturday, eleven on Sunday and one on Monday. It was 13 men between 12–65 and four women, 18–35 years. Two of these drivers had already before lost their driver’s license and one has never had a license.”
They also post statuses about how their day went and about what kinds of things they had to deal with the previous night: “The night was on the quiet side—there was one convenient store break-in, but the individual was arrested shortly after. Said individual spent the night with us. Later a driver was pulled over, suspected of driving under the influence of drugs.”
And these posts may involve a degree of shaming: “A forty-year old man was pulled over at Reykjanesbraut in Hafnarfjörður around dinnertime yesterday and his obliviousness and that of the two adult passengers in the car was unbelievable,” read a post about adults driving their kids around without seatbelts and car seats.
In addition to Facebook, the police are on Twitter, YouTube and EVEN Instagram, too. “We are trying out the photo app Instagram, which is used on smartphones,” they wrote on Facebook earlier this month. “You can see our photos under the tab higher up on this page marked Instagram LRH. Instagram users can find us under the username: Logreglan [the Icelandic word for “police”]. Do check us out and tell us what you think.”
OKAY, SERIOUSLY, WHAT ARE THEY DOING ON INSTAGRAM? #LRH
We checked them out. And no, they aren’t posting bloody crime scene photos masked with Lo-fi filters, but then we only have an average of two murders per year in Iceland.
Their 24 photos to date are mostly of their people or vehicles on duty. One of the first ones was a photo of their offices, comically captioned “Facebook hq.”
But the photos get more exciting, especially when the narcs are involved (Icelandic: “fíknó”). For instance, there is a photomontage showing a fish, a bong, a plant (which may or may not be a marijuana plant) and a traffic ticket, accompanied with the caption, “A legal pet, a plant and a parking ticket. Fantastic Tuesday!!! #logreglan #fikno.”
In a similar photomontage, there’s a donut burger, some bullets, a large marijuana plant and a snake—three of which are illegal in Iceland. The caption reads: “A great Friday shift. Donut burgers and house searches, basic! #fikno,”
It seems people are mostly interested in food, though. When asked where one finds a burger like that, the police replied: “This awesomeness can be found at Roadhouse on Snorrabraut. It doesn’t come with the others…” revealing a bit of police humour.
And again they share their dining tips: On a photo of cars parked near the Reykjavík’s famous hot dog stand, which is accompanied by the caption “I am an undercover cop, nobody sees me. HurrDurrRhh #logreglan #leynilogga #fikno” someone asked “Were you just eating a hot dog?” The police replied: “No, a bacon sub with sautéed mushrooms from Nonni, too too good.”
SO WHAT ARE THEY REALLY DOING?
“The social media implementation is a small step towards building digital policing in Iceland, the end product being a fully digital police station with additional presence in Twitter (the Chief is currently using Twitter) and YouTube,” ConnectedCOPS goes on to say in its profile of the Reykjavík Municipality Police.
“The RMP is finding that social media is both a cost-effective way of community policing but is also turning out to be one of the key points into building trust between the police and the public.”
But you tell me, are the police having too much fun, or what?