From Iceland — Flags On Police Uniform Raise Questions; Capital Area Police Respond

Flags On Police Uniform Raise Questions; Capital Area Police Respond

Published October 21, 2020

Photo by
Screenshot/Mbl.is/Eggert

A photo used with an unrelated crime story on MBL has raised numerous questions amongst Icelanders, chief amongst them being whether the flags being used break Iceland’s flag laws, and whether police are permitted to wear well-known hate symbols, as one of the flags appears to be.

As can be seen, the officer is wearing three flags. One of them appears to be the Icelandic version of the “thin blue line” flag popularised by police in the US.

In a Twitter thread about the photo, former Reykjavík City Council member Halldór Auðar Svansson points out that the use of this flag and others on a police uniform may be a violation of Iceland’s flag laws. Specifically, the articles which state that public offices and officials may only use the official Icelandic flag.

More troubling is that the bottom flag appears to be the Vinland Flag, a flag first popularised by the band Type O Negative but later appropriated by white supremacist hate groups in recent years.

Capital Area Police media contact Gunnar Rúnar Sveinbjörnsson responded to questions from the Grapevine about the matter, providing the same response they gave on the aforementioned Twitter thread, stating:

“The police do not in any way support hate speech or symbols that support it. Police officers should not wear any symbols that are not recognised as a part of the police uniform. This has been emphasised to all of our employees and will be abided.”

In a related article on RÚV, Gunnar said that the police are taking the matter seriously, and that this will be made clear to the officer in question.

That officer, Aníta Rut Harðardóttir, told Vísir that the patches were given to her as a gift, that the photo in question was taken three years ago, and that she was unaware of the flags’ negative connotations. The patches are worn under her uniform, on her vest, but were visible in the photo as the front zipper of her jacket was open.

She has said that she will look into the matter better, and continue to wear them if she concludes that the patches do not bear any hateful meanings. She added that she considers the criticism unfair.

“They’re attacking me as a police officer, and in so doing, my entire class,” she told reporters. “I have worked as a police officer for 21 years and would never act unjustly towards anyone.”

Grapevine sent follow-up questions to Gunnar, asking what consequences if any there will be for the officer in question, and how Icelandic police in general are taught to fight hate. Those questions have not yet been answered at the time of this writing.

UPDATE, 18:43: The Capital Area Police have posted a longer statement on Facebook, wherein they state the following:

“The Capital Area Police want to make it clear that it does not, in any way, support hate speech or symbols that promote it. This is being mentioned due to media reports and photos being shared of a police officer earlier today, where on [her] uniform can be seen a symbol that is completely unacceptable. The Capital Area Police furthermore deeply regret the pain this has caused others, and offer our sincere apologies. The message which can be read from this symbol is not at all in keeping with the education, policies or aim of the police. Our police officers will in addition be sent clear orders to remove all symbols from their uniforms which are not in keeping with our regulations. The matter has been reported to the supervisory authority of the police.”

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