Police in Iceland are having to prioritise which calls to actually send officers to respond to, due to a shortage of both staff and funding. The Minister of Justice, who oversees the police, denies these problems exist, but publicly available data shows her contentions are not based on fact.
Stöð 2 reports that police have confirmed they are prioritising calls now, deploying officers only to the most important calls.
This is not just a problem in the countryside, where officers are already stretched thin. Birgir Örn Guðjónsson, a police officer whose beat covers Kópavogur and Breiðholt, told reporters that there are only three officers on the night shift for the area, which is comprised of about 60,000 people.
Minister of Justice Sigríður Andersen has contended that the police not only have plenty of funding to keep the peace; she added that the police has never been as well funded as it is now. However, Stundin was able to piece together publicly available data that shows the Minister’s contentions are not reflected in facts.
From 2007 to 2017, visitors to Iceland increased from about 500,000 to 2.2 million. During this same period of time, the number of Icelandic police officers actually decreased, from 374 to 307. Further, Stundin points out that while funding to the police increased from 13.6 billion ISK in 2014 to 15.1 billion ISK in 2018, when adjusted for inflation this amounts to a funding increase of about 3%. For reference, police funding increased by 11% from 2004 to 2008.
Police leadership has long lamented the state of affairs within the institution, including the need for more funding to offer better salaries in order to recruit more officers. How and if this request will be granted remains to be seen.