Law enforcement in Italy
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Law enforcement in Italy is an exclusive duty of the State and is generally provided by four national agencies with full powers and by other local forces carrying out restricted and limited duties. The two main police forces in the country are the Carabinieri (under the Ministry of Defence) and the Polizia di Stato (under the Ministry of the Interior).
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Law enforcement in Italy is an exclusive function of the State and is organized under the Ministry of Domestic Affairs, with provincial division and jurisdiction.
The Ministero dell'Interno (Ministry of the Interior) is the government department with oversight of all of the national forces. On a local level, the forces are under the authority of the Prefetto, in collaboration with the Questore (the local chief of the Polizia), that have their offenses Prefettura and Questura in every province capital.
For these reasons, the main police force in Italy is Polizia di Stato, or simply Polizia, which is a nationwide, full-powered agency, with different divisions for each specialized area of interest. The Polizia’s duties may vary from traffic patrol to investigation, forensic analysis, or riot control. This civilian agency is generally distributed from the medium to large cities up to the province capital, even though exceptions may exist with offices and/or stations in critical towns or in places of interest.
The same duties are carried out also by Arma dei Carabinieri, commonly known as ‘’Carabinieri’’, which are additional Military Police for the Italian Armed Forces. Also, generally Carabinieri is also in charge of investigation or intervention inside Public Administrations and personal right violation, but mainly because of their history as “defender of the Constitution (It is not by chance that the President of Republic safety corps is a special section of Carabinieri called Corazzieri). They act under the orders of the questore (even though this position is the chief of the Polizia and a civilian) and are usually distributed all over the country, with a station approximately in every municipality (or at least every range of 5km).
Even though in cases of emergency both Polizia or Carabinieri may be called upon or may intervene, strong differences underline the two agencies: Carabinieri is more an investigation/law break control corps, while Polizia also includes a number of bureaucratic duties around visas, passports, licenses, registration of tourists from hotels, and so on.
Other national forces generally focus on specific and distinguished duties. For example, Guardia di Finanza is the finance and economy police (or roughly Customs, Excise and Fraud squad) and is essentially responsible for dealing with financial crime and smuggling; it has also evolved into Italy's primary agency for suppressing the illegal drug trade. It maintains over 600 boats and ships and more than 100 aircraft to serve in its mission of patrolling Italy's territorial waters.
The ‘’Polizia Penitenziaria’’ is the national prison guard agency. Only in 2016 the environment and the forestry police guard called the "Corpo Forestale dello Stato," was absorbed into the Carabinieri, taking the number of national police forces from five to four.
Italy divides law enforcement into Military and Civil forces, distinguishing each "agency" by duties and jurisdictions. All law enforcement officers are considered "Pubblici Ufficiali" [Public Functionaries] and but not all officers belonging to police forces are "Agenti di Pubblica Sicurezza" [Public Safety officers] as the latter gives the authority to arrest, investigate and patrol in the whole national territory and in all situations.
In a different way from other countries (such as the United States), Italy does not have multiple specialized agencies for immigration, drug offenses, patrolling etc, but each “area” is investigated by a dedicated section of each national agency. For example, the Polizia Stradale [highway patrol] is a role within the Polizia, with focus on patrolling the roads and various crimes committed on national and local roads. Therefore, crimes covering multiple "areas" do not need to be covered by multiple agencies.
Border and Maritime patrolling are undertaken by the Guardia di Finanza and Guardia Costiera [Coast Guard]. Officers of the Guardia Costiera, who are members of the Italian Navy, do not have the same range of powers as the Polizia or the Carabinieri.
Municipal officers work on minor crimes on a local basis, from traffic offenses to small-time drug dealing and illegal camping. Each town or city has its own police department but they have limited jurisdiction and duties. Local officers can check driving licenses, enforce municipal laws and ordinances and carry out investigations for robberies and minor offenses, but they cannot form a "riot squad" or interfere with homicide or general investigations by the Police or Carabinieri.
Each Polizia Locale is under the authority of the respective local mayor, but the officers' mandate is valid only during their working hours and within the area their force covers, whereas Carabinieri, Polizia di Stato and Guardia di Finanza are always formally "on duty", wherever they are and regardless of whether they are at work.
In 2005, the total number of active police officers in all of the agencies was 324,339 in Italy, the highest number in the European Union both overall and per capita, twice the number of agents in the similarly sized United Kingdom. However, this number includes every officer of the Arma dei Carabinieri, one of the four arms of the Italian Armed Forces, which includes roles which in other countries would not necessarily be considered to be police officers. For example, it has a department akin to workplace inspectors, Carabinieri della tutela del lavoro, and one tasked with ensuring proper standards are being met within the food and drink production, Carabinieri per la tutela della salute.
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National police forcesEdit
Polizia di StatoEdit
The Polizia di Stato (State Police) is the civil national police of Italy. Along with patrolling, investigative and law enforcement duties, it patrols the Autostrada (Italy's Express Highway network), and oversees the security of railways, bridges, and waterways.
It is a civilian police force, while the Carabinieri and the Guardia di Finanza are military. While its internal organization and mindset are somewhat military, its personnel is composed of civilians. Its headquarters are in Rome, and there are Regional and Provincial divisions throughout the Italian territory.
A program Polizia di Quartiere (Quarter Police) has been implemented which increases police presence and deters crime. Pairs of poliziotti (policemen) or carabinieri patrol areas of major cities on foot.
Guardia di FinanzaEdit
The Guardia di Finanza, (English: Financial Guard) is a military corps under the authority of the Minister of Economy and Finance, with a role as a police force.
The Corps is in charge of financial, economic, judiciary and public safety: tax evasion, financial crimes, smuggling, money laundering, international illegal drug trafficking, illegal immigration, customs and borders checks, copyright violations, anti-Mafia operations, credit card fraud, cybercrime, counterfeiting, terrorist financing, maintaining public order, and safety, political and military defense of the Italian borders.
The Guardia di Finanza has a strength of around 68,000 soldiers working as agents, NCOs and officers. Its militaries are in service in the Europol and the European Anti-Fraud Office. Its Latin motto since 1933 is Nec recisa recedit (English: Not Even Broken Retreats). The Guardia di Finanza also maintains over 600 boats and ships and more than 100 aircraft to fulfill its mission of patrolling Italy's territorial waters.
During demonstrations and very big events, the Guardia di Finanza is often called on duty as riot police.
Arma dei CarabinieriEdit
The Carabinieri have become a separate armed force (alongside the Army, Navy and Air Force), thus ending their long-standing tradition as the First Corps (Arma) of the Italian Army (Esercito). They are referred to as the Arma or La Benemerita (The Meritorious Corps).
In November 2003, twelve Carabinieri were killed in a suicide bomb attack on their base in Nasiriyah, in southern Iraq. This was Italy's largest military loss in a single action since World War II.
Until 2001, only men were allowed to become part of the Arma (or any military force, for that matter), but military reforms allow women to serve in the Italian military, including Carabinieri.
Having both military police duties and civil police duties, the Arma is usually called on duty as riot police during big events and demonstrations.
The Polizia Penitenziaria (Prison Guards, literally Penitentiary Police) operate the Italian prison system and handle the transportation of inmates. The training academies for the Polizia Penitenziaria are located in Aversa, Monastir, Cairo Montenotte, Castiglione delle Stiviere, Parma, Portici, Rome, San Pietro Clarenza, Verbania and Sulmona.
Its agents are sometimes called to help the other police forces during big events.
Corpo Forestale dello StatoEdit
The Corpo Forestale dello Stato (National Forestry Department, now dissolved) was responsible for law enforcement in Italian national parks and forests. Their duties included enforcing poaching laws, safeguarding protected animal species and preventing forest fires. Founded in 1822, the Corpo Forestale dello Stato was a civilian police force specialized on the environmental protection. A recent law reform expanded its duties to food controls. In Italy, it had the responsibility to manage the activities related to the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species). The Autonomous Region of Sardinia has its own corp of forestry police.
Corpo Forestale dello Stato was dissolved on December 31, 2016 and all personnel become militarized and absorbed into the Carabinieri's Comando unità per la tutela forestale, ambientale e agroalimentare.
The Direzione Investigativa Antimafia (or DIA) (Anti-Mafia Investigation Directorate) is a joint organization of Polizia di Stato, Carabinieri, Corpo Forestale dello Stato and Guardia di Finanza for the fight against organized crime. Founded in 1991, under the authority of the Minister of Interior as the Direzione Nazionale Antimafia (National Anti-Mafia Directorate). Its operations include preemptive investigations, judicial investigations, and international relations, and it investigates characteristics, objectives, and methods of the Mafia as well as their domestic and international contacts. The DIA was to prevent mafiosi from infiltrating the government.
The Direzione Centrale per i Servizi Antidroga (Central Directorate for Anti-Drug Services) is a joint organization of Polizia di Stato, Carabinieri and Guardia di Finanza for the fight against drug trafficking. Founded in 1976 as Direzione Anti Droga (Anti-Drug Directorate), is under the authority of the Criminal police department of the Minister of Interior.
Local police forcesEdit
The Polizia Regionale (Regional Police) is local police only used in some of the 20 Regions of Italy. Their main tasks are to enforce regional and national hunting and fishing laws, but have also expanded in wildlife management and environmental protection. They can also act as local police in communes who desire their own police but are too small to maintain their own force.
The Polizia Provinciale (Provincial Police) is local police only used in some of the 109 Provinces of Italy. Their main tasks are to enforce regional and national hunting and fishing laws, but have also expanded in wildlife management and environmental protection. Carries traffic police service and participates in the security services arranged by the authorities.
In addition, each comune has its own Polizia Municipale (Municipal Police) whose main duty is to enforce local regulations and traffic laws; it also deals with petty crimes but in larger cities they cooperate with the national police forces to prevent and repress major crimes. Depending on their location they are also called Polizia Municipale, Polizia Locale, Polizia Comunale, Polizia Urbana or Vigili Urbani.
In some regions Polizia Provinciale and Polizia Municipale are grouped together under the name Polizia Locale (Local Police), although they keep their own internal organisation. Small communes can merge their local police forces in a consortium.
Both provincial and municipal forces are reliant on the State Police for scientific support and other forms of assistance.
The Organizzazione di Vigilanza Repressione dell'Antifascismo (or OVRA) (English: Organization for Vigilance in Repression of Anti-Fascism) was a secret police organization in Italy during fascism.
The Polizia dell'Africa Italiana or PAI (Police of Italian Africa) (1936–1944).
The Guardia Nazionale Repubblicana or GNR (National Republic Guard) was a paramilitary force of the Italian Social Republic created by decree on December 8, 1943, replacing the Carabinieri and the MVSN.
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Until recently, all Italian police forces were equipped with Italian-made police cars, with FIAT and Alfa Romeos most common. The most famous of them, the Alfa Romeo Giulia, gave the nicknames of the cars still commonly used today. A patrol car belonging to Polizia is nicknamed Pantera (Panther), one used by the Carabinieri is nicknamed Gazzella (Gazelle) and every unmarked car is called a Civetta (Owl).
Every force has helicopters, trucks and campers (used as mobile offices, usually in undercover missions). In Venice, which is built across several islands linked by bridges and surrounded by water, public security and fire brigades work with boats.
In 2004, Lamborghini donated two Lamborghini Gallardo police cars to the Polizia di Stato on their 152nd anniversary. On the 31st November 2009 one of these supercars was badly damaged in a collision near the northern Italian town of Cremona where it was on display at a student jobs fair. The car apparently swerved to avoid another vehicle crossing its path and collided with two stationary vehicles; it was repaired in January 2010.
- Arma dei Carabinieri patrol vehicles are very dark blue with a red stripe along the side. Most if not all have white roofs. Their telephone number is also featured - "112" (whilst that of the Polizia di Stato is "113"). Their vehicles have registration plates beginning with "CC". Precedently, Carabinieri cars were dark green: the last green (and the first black) Carabinieri car was the Alfa Romeo Giulia.
- Guardia di Finanza vehicles are dove grey or dark blue with a thin gold stripe along each side and the words Guardia di Finanza in gold underneath. The vehicle plates begin with the letters “GdiF” in red.
- Polizia di Stato vehicles are light blue with a white stripe along the side and the word POLIZIA in large letters underneath. The license plates start with the word Polizia in red usually followed by a letter and four numbers. Like the Carabinieri vehicles, the cars were precedently green, but before the green colour, the cars were red.
- Polizia Penitenziaria vehicles are dark blue with a light blue stripe along the side and Polizia Penitenziaria in white letters under the stripe. License plates have the entire name POLIZIA PENITENZIARIA on them, followed by three numbers and two letters.
- Corpo Forestale dello Stato vehicles are green with a white stripe and the words CORPO FORESTALE DELLO STATO in white along the side. The vehicle plates begin with the letters “CFS” in red. From January 2017 all vehicles have been transferred under the Carabinieri's Comando unità per la tutela forestale, ambientale e agroalimentare. The words "CORPO FORESTALE DELLO STATO" has been replaced with "CARABINIERI", but they still remain green with a white stripe.
- Polizia Provinciale vehicles are white with a green horizontal stripe along the side.
- Polizia Municipale the colours of vehicles depend on regional laws. Usually, the cars are white with blue, green or red stripes and the words "Polizia Municipale" or "Polizia Locale" along the side, in some regions car color can be black or dark grey. License plates have the entire name POLIZIA LOCALE on them and the letter "Y" followed by another letter, three numbers, and two letters.
- Crime and Criminal Justice - Issue number 19/2008 (KS-SF-08-019) Archived 2011-08-12 at the Wayback Machine
- Camera.it, web: http://www.camera.it/parlam/leggi/deleghe/01215dl.htm
- Jamieson, Alison. The Antimafia. Great Britain: Antony Rowe Ltd., 2000. Print