Police abuse in Italy

The unspoken law enforcement abuse

Looking into the topic and numbers of police abuse in Italy is a dead end. There isn’t even a rabbit hole to follow or bread crumbs to look for. Nothing. There are no statistics or reports of police brutality and abuse in the country. An officer killing a civilian is the extreme end of the spectrum. The spectrum is wide, since it includes any type of abuse, from bribery, to personal favors, all the way to beatings.

The reasons for this behavior are just as varied. For example, greed, corruption, and even racism. Police brutality and abuse in Italy doesn’t look like its American counterpart. While there aren’t as many officers-involved shootings, in Italy the abuse comes in fists and bribes. It’s brutality still, in its own biased way. So, there is an issue in the country too, except no one is looking.

Italy, where is the data?

Indeed, another question for this relevant yet under-researched topic. Because the truth is, there isn’t any independent research for Italian law enforcement. The reasons behind this void might be multiple and very different in nature. For example, the Italian police is often quoted as a positive example. This is true for local officers, the military force Carabinieri, and investigators.

”The Carabinieri’s approach—military duties and advanced weapons skills, but rare use of weapons—is worlds away from U.S. policing,” wrote the website Foreign Policy, “the Carabinieri enjoy enormous respect in Italian society.”

Since law enforcement also does community reach, this might explain why there isn’t any data on police brutality in Italy. It’s the approach of looking at the positive and sweeping everything else under the rug. However, there might be an easier explanation to this lack of information. It’s called denial. Plus, the country doesn’t have any law governing police use of force.

Lacking data, lacking laws about police abuse in Italy

The Italian law is clear and it states: no public officer can’t be punished if, while enacting its duty, has to use its weapon. So, if the officer is performing any kind of law-related duty and uses the gun, the law can’t hold the officer responsible. However, the legislators condemn arbitrary killings, the torture, and any inhumane treatments. Still, there is no discrimination clause. So, an officer might have done something due to racism, but that won’t be an aggravating factor. In Italy, there is no hate crime.

Racing exists everywhere

Ignoring this doesn’t make racism in the Italian police go away. It just makes it harder to track -indeed, a pattern starts emerging. The European Union’s Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) made the report “Being Black in the EU” in 2019.

The research also focused on police’s reactions and behavior. In Italy, 70% of people stopped by the authorities believed it was racially motivated. Of these, only 9% reported the incident to the police itself. For example, Finland has the highest European percentage for victims reporting to the authorities (30%). In Italy, 63% of victims of attacks by the police didn’t tell anyone. Why? Because 28% don’t trust law enforcement.

The many forms of abuse of power

So, while racism might not kill in Italy (at least not as much as in other countries), it is still present. In March 2021, a video of three Italian police officers appeared. It showed them hitting two young migrants with a truncheon on a train to the French border. They were beating them, before throwing them out. Instead of protecting, these three attacked.

But abuse of power doesn’t have to be so brutal. In fact, bribery also counts. In Bergamo,  a local police officer was arrested for the crime of aiding illegal immigration. The officer put fake entry stamps on people’s passports, giving them freedom to move and access to the Italian immigration system. All those stamps for money, of course.

On the other hand, Moises Pirela and his 22-year old girlfriend had a close encounter with three plainclothes policemen. Him, from Venezuela and her, from China. They fit the description of two wanted thieves: latino and asian. So, the policemen tried to get to them and then to bring them in. But the two students didn’t go quietly. A video from bystanders shows officers dragging and punching the two, leaving Pirela on the ground.

“They saw us as foreigners and they took it out on us,” said Pirela to the local newspaper.

So, police abuse in Italy exists. What doesn’t exist is a record and an independent institution, overseeing these behaviors. The Italian system protects its force and it barely holds it accountable. Anytime is the right time to reverse this trend.

Another trend that should be reversed? The raise of neofascism in Italy.

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