Police in Italy

Police in Italy

Note: for more related information, see the entry on the Italian Criminal Justice System.

1. Administration.

There are three main state police corps
in Italy: the State Police (Polizia di Stato), the
Carabinieri, and the Finance Guard (Guardia di
Finanza). The Carabinieri and Finance Guard
(employed mainly in the investigation of financial
crimes) is a military corps, under authority of
the Ministry of Defence and of the Ministry of
Finance, respectively. The State Police is a
civil corps under authority of the Ministry of the
Interior and is responsible for all functions
listed in the United Nation’s definition of police
(prevention, detection, investigation, and
apprehension of alleged offenders). There also
exist local police corps with limited jurisdiction
(rangers, city police, traffic police, railway
police, coast guard).
The Code of Penal Procedure state the
functions of the investigating police. (Articles
55-59). Appointed police officers (ufficiali di
polizia giudiziaria) from all police corps carry
out criminal investigation functions (funzioni di
polizia giudiziaria). under direction of the
judicial authority in the criminal investigation
departments(sezioni di polizia giudiziaria). In
addition to the criminal investigation departments
located at the Public Prosecutor’s offices, there
are also criminal investigation services (servizi
di polizia giudiziaria) which are established all
over the country at the local Carabinieri, State
Police and Finance Guard stations. Criminal
investigative services are directly and
exclusively used for the Public Prosecutor for
particular criminal investigations. The Central
Operating Service (Servizio Centrale Operativo)
coordinates all police criminal investigation
activities under the authority of the Chief of
Police and the Ministry of the Interior.
The Ministry of the Interior has recently
established a special agency of criminal
investigation, called the DIA (Direzione
Investigativa Antimafia) to be in charge of
organized crime investigations. The DIA is
directed by a high ranking Carabinieri, State
Police or Chief Finance Guard Officer. This
interforce structure is used by the National
Antimafia Prosecuting Attorney (Procuratore
Nazionale Antimafia), who is also the head of the
National Antimafia Prosecutor Office (Direzione
Nazionale Antimafia). (Official Gazette, November
6, 1991; December 31, 1991)

2. Resources.

*Expenditures. For fiscal year 1994, the Italian
State budget entered the following expenses, which
include the investigating police expenses for all
three police corps:
a) 8,030 billion lire for the State Police
(Ministry of the Interior)
b) 5,915 billion lire for the Carabinieri
(Ministry of Defense)
c) 3,608 billion and 744 million lire for
the Finance Guard (Ministry of Finance). (Official
Gazette, December 28, 1993).
It should be noted that investigating police
functions comprise only a fraction of all police
activities (military police, rangers, traffic,
secret services, witness protection programs,
public order). Police officers of all corps may
serve different functions while in service. This
makes it difficult to distinguish the expenses for
investigating police from general police expenses.

*Number of police. As of Dec. 31, 1990, the total
number of police, including the State Police,
Carabinieri and Finance Police, and the criminal
investigation police, was 241,429, of which
234,729 were male and 6,700 were female. (On Dec.
31, 1986, the total number of police personnel,
including the Polizia di Stato, Carabinieri, and
Guardia di Finanza, and the polizia giudiziaria,
was 215,186.) (Fourth United Nation Survey of
Crime Trends and Operations of Criminal Justice
Systems, 1992).
As of Dec. 31, 1990, the total number of
police personnel was 200,660, of which 189,240
were male and 11,420 were female. Sworn/uniformed
police comprised 192,817 of this total and
civilians comprised 7,843. (On Dec. 31, 1986, the
total number of police personnel was 183,393, of
which 179,242 were male and 4,151 were female.
Sworn/uniformed police comprised 177.371 of this
total and civilians numbered 6,022.)

3. Technology.

*Availability of police automobiles. Information
not available.

*Electronic equipment. Information not available.

*Weapons. Handguns, automatic weapons and batons
are commonly carried on sworn uniformed police
officers. Individually, police officers are
issued one Beretta 92 SB double action
semiautomatic pistol, cal 9 mm. Parabellum (8 or
15-shot) as a personal weapon for the duration of
their service.
There are also ordinary and special party
armaments which are not personal and must be
returned when not on duty. Ordinary armament is
generally available to all police officers for
ordinary team activities such as patrolling.
Special armament requires special training and is
generally only available to special squads, such
as anti-kidnapping and anti-terrorist squads.
Types of ordinary party armament (armamento
ordinario di reparto) include: a) Rubber or
plastic cylindrical internally hollow nightstick
with an overall length between 40 to 60
centimeters or 19 to 24 inches; b) Beretta PM 12S
fully automatic submachine pistol, cal. 9 mm.
Parabellum; c) Semiautomatic plus slide-action 12
Gauge shotgun; and d) a fully automatic,
semiautomatic, or bolt action rifle, cal. 5.56 mm
or 7.62 NATO mm.
Types of special party armament (armamento
speciale di reparto) include: a) Beretta 92 SB
double action semiautomatic pistol, cal 9 mm.
Parabellum (8 or 15-shot); b) Revolver (cal. 38
Special, 357 Magnum, 9 mm. Parabellum); c) Beretta
PM 12S fully automatic submachine pistol, cal. 9
mm. Parabellum; d) Fully automatic (or
semiautomatic, or bolt action) rifle, cal. 5.56 mm
or 7.62 NATO mm.; e) Machine gun; f) Hand
grenades, which can also to be launched with the
rifle; g) Explosives of various types; and h)
Self-propelled weapons (bazooka).
Both ordinary and special party armament
includes other weapons and accessories, such as
bullet-proof vests, training pistols and rifles,
cal 4.5 mm. air guns, light and smoke devices,
helmets, silencers, nightly vision binoculars and
scopes, various types of knives, and narcotizing
weapons. (Official Gazette, May 2, 1986)

4. Training and qualifications.

To become a senior officer or executive in
the state police, a masters of law degree is
required. In the military structure (Carabinieri
and Finance Guard) it is required to attend the
military academy and the scuola ufficiali. The
Scuola di Perfezionamento per le Forze di Polizia
provides the highest level of specialization for
police officers of all police corps. All state
police corps have schools and training programs
for police personnel. A clean record and good
moral qualities are required to join the police.

5. Discretion.

*Use of force. Police may use force and/or deadly
force in self defense to drive back acts of
violence, to overcome resistance to authority, or
to prevent the occurrence of very serious crimes
(slaughter, homicide, kidnapping, robbery),
providing that there is an immediate danger of the
occurrence of these crimes and that the police
reaction is proportionate to such danger. (Penal
Code, Art.52,53).

*Stop/apprehend a suspect. The law requires
police to arrest and incarcerate a person if
caught in flagrancy (arresto obbligatorio in
flagranza) (in the act of committing a crime) or
immediately after the crime’s commission, if the
crime is punishable by a 5 to 20 year prison
sentence or life imprisonment. An arrest is also
required for other serious crimes including: 1)
crimes against the state; 2) devastation and
ransacking; 3) crimes agaist public safety; 4)
reduction to slavery; 5) serious forms of
aggravated theft; 6) robbery, extortion; 7)
illegal manufacturing, smuggling, selling, letting
have, possessing, or carrying in a public place of
illegal weapons, especially military weapons; 8)
serious drug crimes; 9) crimes of terrorism and
subversion, secrecy, mafioso, military and
political illegal associations; and 10) criminal
association with the intent to commit some of the
aforementioned crimes (for example, number
1,2,3,4,6,7 and 9). These crimes are are listed in
the Code of Penal Procedure and have attached
penalties such as 3 to 10 years of imprisonment.
(Code of Penal Procedure, Art.380).
The police have facultative power to arrest
and incarcerate a suspect, if caught “in
flagrancy” (arresto facoltativo in flagranza), for
crimes punishable by more than 3 years in prison,
with a 5 year maximum if the crime is
unintentional. Facultative arrest powers are also
in force for other crimes such as: 1) embezzlement
of public property by an officer; 2) corruption of
a public officer; 3) threat or violence to a
public officer; 4) commerce and supply of bad food
or drugs; 5) corruption of a minor; 6) assault
provoking a personal injury; 7) theft; 8)
aggravated damaging; 9) fraud; and 10)
misappropriation of private funds or property.
Generally these crimes are punishable by more than
6 months to 5 years in prison and are listed in
the Code of Penal Procedure (Art.381).
Police may also arrest and incarcerate a
person suspected of having committed a crime for
which the law provides a minimum penalty of no
less than 2 years in prison and a maximum of more
than 6 years in prison, even if the suspect is not
caught in flagrancy such as crimes involving
weapons or explosives. Arrest and incarceration
may be imposed if there is relevant circumstantial
evidence of guilt before the Public Prosecutor
starts the investigation, or if there is danger
that the suspect will escape and there is no time
to get a warrant signed by the Public Prosecutor.
(Code of Penal Procedure, Art.384).
In all cases (mandatory and facultative
“arresto” or “fermo”), the police must immediately
notify the Public Prosecutor, the defense attorney
and the suspect’s family of the arrest (Code of
Penal Procedure, Art.386,387). Within 48 hours,
the Public Prosecutor must request the Judge for
the Preliminary Investigation (G.I.P.) to fix a
hearing in order to confirm the arrest within the
next 48 hours. If the 48 hour terms are not met,
the arrest loses its validity and the arrested
person is set free (Code of Penal Procedure,
The G.I.P summons the defendant, the defense
attorney and the prosecutor for the special
validation hearing. At this hearing, the G.I.P.
examines the prosecutor’s conclusions concerning
the motives of the arrest and the defendant is
questioned in the presence of his attorney. The
G.I.P. then decides on the legitimacy of the
arrest and issues an order of release. (Code of
Penal Procedure, Art. 274). After arrest,
procedures to process the suspect further in the
criminal justice system are specifically and
formally provided by the Code of Penal Procedure.
After the arrest has been made and reported
to the judge, all subsequent procedural decisions
are made by the judge or prosecutor.

*Decision to arrest. The majority of arrests are
made while the suspect is committing a crime in
“flagrancy” in which a warrant is obtained.

*Search and seizure. For the purpose of
collecting criminal evidence, as a rule, a search
requires a warrant signed by the judge. In
particular cases of emergency connected with
serious crimes (for example, kidnapping, drug
offenses) the police may search or seize property
without a warrant (motu proprio). In this case,
police must give notice of the searching/seizing
within 48 hours to the prosecutor who is bound to
verify its legitimacy. Illegal searching and
seizing of property by police officers is punished
by law as an abuse of power. (For example, an
illegal body search (peruisizione e ispezione
personali arbitrarie) can result in sanctions
taken against the police officer. (Penal Code
Art.609).) Illegally obtained evidence is not
admissible in a case. (Code of Penal Procedure,

*Confessions. The law provides that all
statements, including confessions, made in the
presence of police officers or at any stage of
judicial proceedings are invalid, when obtained by
coercion. Also, the mere confession of a crime
does not amount to full evidence of guilt. (Code
of Penal Procedure, Art.63-65,192).

6. Accountability.

Complaints against alleged illegal police
behavior are filed according to the same
procedures provided for an alleged violation of
the Penal Law. Complaints can be filed directly
at the Public Prosecutor’s Office or at any
investigating police office. There is no
state-independent board to process complaints, nor
are there “watchdog” committees.

Note: this work was completed in 1993


See Also

  • Criminal Justice
  • Legal System
  • Criminology
  • Italian Criminal Justice System

Further Reading

  • Cole, George F., S. J. Frankowski, and M. G. Gertz, (1987) Major Criminal Justice Systems. Beverly Hills: Sage.
  • David, R. and J. E. Brierley (1968) Major Legal Systems of the World Today. London: Free Press.
  • Fairchild, E. (1993), Comparative criminal justice systems. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
  • Feeley, Malcolm M. (1973), “Two models of the criminal justice system”. Law and Society Review, 7(3): 407-425.

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