From Iceland — National Police Commissioner Will Stay On, Despite Objections From Almost All Police Chiefs

National Police Commissioner Will Stay On, Despite Objections From Almost All Police Chiefs

Published September 24, 2019

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Rebecca Conway

Eight out of Iceland’s nine police chiefs and the Police Federation of Iceland have all publicly expressed the belief that National Commissioner of the Police Haraldur Johannessen is unfit to serve in his office. Despite this, Vísir reports, he will remain at his post for now, as confirmed by the highest authority over the police, Minister of Justice Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir.

As reported, Haraldur has been the national commissioner of the police since 1998, when the office was first created by Þorsteinn Pálsson, the Minister of Justice at the time, who hailed from the Independence Party. Since then, his tenure in office has been marked by criticism, especially in recent years—much of it coming from within the police force itself.

Most of the complaints against him attest to mismanagement, unnecessary spending and what Arinbjörn Snorrason, chair of the Reykjavík Police Officers Union, called “ruling by fear”.

Speaking with reporters earlier today, Áslaug said that she has met with Iceland’s police chiefs about the situation, saying that her office intends to examine restructuring and reorganising within the police ranks, and will likely reach a conclusion in a few weeks. When asked directly if Haraldur would be stepping aside, she replied, “No.”

“First and foremost we need to ensure that the police force is functional in this country despite the vote of no confidence [against Haraldur],” she said. When asked if she was putting the interests of Haraldur ahead of the interests of the police as a whole, she replied, “The interests of the police are always prioritised. I hope that the conclusions of the work we’re doing will lead to us being able to make structural changes which are good for citizens and police officers alike.”

Sigríður Á. Andersen, the former Minister of Justice, told reporters that regardless of Áslaug’s statement, as Minister of Justice she must take some substantive action.

“It needs to be answered in some way what we’re supposed to do with this vote of no confidence,” she said. “This is not a good situation and it isn’t good that such a matter ends up in the media in this way.”

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