Just in time for the holiday season, some capital area police will now be carrying handguns in their patrol cars.
Vísir reports that only those police who have passed a course in handling the firearms will be allowed to have them. Those capital area police who are permitted to have the guns will then keep them in a special box in their patrol cars. These cars are also to be equipped with helmets and bulletproof vests. The change is expected to take place in mid-December.
Capital area police superintendent Ásgeir Þór Ásgeirsson told reporters the change was made so that police can respond with weapons more quickly, as the Viking Squad – the Icelandic SWAT team, and the only police to have guns until now – can sometimes take some time to respond. He emphasised that armed police will not be allowed to deploy their weapons until their direct supervisor has been given an assessment of the situation, and gives the green light to load the gun and take it out of the car.
Hringbraut reported that a police officer was photographed with a handgun on his hip at the scene of an accident last Tuesday. However, the police explained that the officer in question had participated in an air exercise at Akureyri’s airport, which required practicing using a handgun, when he was called to the scene of the accident. The gun, the police said, was not loaded.
Police did not disclose whether or not this was a part of the “special security measures” they announced they would be adopting in the wake of the Paris attack.
The Icelandic police have repeatedly tried to get guns, sparking a great deal of criticism from Icelanders over the idea. In defending the need for the purchase, the police cited an Interior Ministry report from 2012 that contended the police were limited in their power to deal with terrorism, weapons crimes, and other major offences.
This latest news of handguns appears to be eliciting a similar reaction amongst Icelanders on social media. As author and journalist Illugi Jökulsson posted, “Police with guns will neither increase security nor the feeling of security amongst the general public in Reykjavík. Period.”