T Nation

Thoughts on Police Interactions In Italy vs In the US

Something that has fascinated me for a while and caught my curiosity and interest some time ago, is the way some laws work in the US as opposed to in Italy, where I live.

I started watching (I really don’t recall how it happened) first amendment audits on youtube, and eventually transitioned from bs channels to consuming more informative video formats (channels like Audit the Audit, where police interactions are broken down and analyzed citing laws in lots of detail and whatnot). As I learned more and more about how some laws work in the US (I do realize that there is variance between states), as well as what police interactions tend to look like, I couldn’t help but notice how different a lot of those things are from the way everything works in Italy.

In this thread, I’d like to highlight some of those differences, discuss them, and get some more insights from you guys about these things really work where you live. If I recall correctly, there are some members who are in law enforcement, so I’d be particularly interested in their thoughts.

This is not even limited to the US; anything goes.

So, first things first–per my understanding, the police can’t generally stop someone (whether a pedestrian or motorist on the road) and demand to identify them, unless there is some basis for it (reasonable suspicion). In Italy, it works nothing like this. Stopping and identifying random people on the street is one of police’s most common activities. It’s called a “documents check.” The police can stop you if you’re walking down the street and you have to either give them your ID or full name and date of birth. This is done to supposedly make sure you aren’t a criminal or something… I still have to figure out the purpose that serves. Likewise, the police can pull any motorist over and do a “document check,” there doesn’t have to be any traffic infraction to trigger that.

In fact, a very common thing in Italy is for police to stay on the side of a road, and start a posto di blocco (literally, a “stop spot”). The officer will hold something like the thing in this pic:

unnamed

and signal a car/motorbike to pull over. Judging from what I’ve seen on the internet, I can only imagine that if an officer approached someone walking on the street and demanded to see their ID, they would probably get laughed at. Here, to my knowledge, failing to identify carries a sentence of up to 2 years (although, in practice, I am almost certain that has never happened in the history of my country).

Interestingly enough, at the same time we have very rigid privacy laws. You cannot film people in public and put that on the internet without blurring their face. Anywhere you go, if you submit any personal data (say a work résumé), you have to sign papers in which you confirm you agree to your data being collected. You can sue somebody if they record you and share it with anybody. You get the idea.

Another difference I noticed is there doesn’t seem to be a “contempt of cop” crime in the US, whereas flipping off a police officer in Italy (or insulting them) will get you charged. Note the same isn’t, in general, true for regular citizens. You can’t be charged for flipping off someone who isn’t a policeman.

Which brings me to: even when committing a crime, you will likely not be arrested on the spot, but rather you’ll be identified and reported, and later prosecuted (much later, possibly). Handcuffs aren’t common here and to my knowledge, the police cannot cuff you if they haven’t arrested you formally (no cuffs for detainment).

The police will never call you “friend”, “brother”, “bud,” or anything like that here. I have seen that very often in US police encounters online.

They also get in trouble very, very easily if they ever shoot. Most police officers don’t ever shoot during their whole career.

On this last point, I’d like to also share a video that is relevant. The video isn’t graphic at all, but does show a police officer shooting. If this is deemed to be against the rules, the mods will remove it, but really, there is no blood or anything.

This is something that recently made it to the news in Italy. A guy brandishing a knife in Rome was apprehended by the police, and they had to shoot him in a leg to stop him. The guy wasn’t seriously injured or anything.

Yet, the officer who shot him has had his service weapon seized as evidence and is currently being charged with, hmm, I’m not sure what crime to be honest, but he is going to go to trial for what he did, which is honestly mind-blowing to me.

So here’s the video

Having seen some body cam footage (which, by the way, isn’t a thing in Italy) from similar encounters in the US, I can only imagine what US officers would have done–righteously, in my opinion–in this instance. And they surely wouldn’t have been prosecuted.

As a closing point, I want to remind you that the Italian constitution does share most of the values and principles of that of the US–freedom of speech, person freedom in general, and so on. I just thought it’d be interesting to compare how those principles end up being applied in practice, at two ends of the world.

Comments are appreciated.

I’ll be following this thread with interest.

Correct 100%

That’s fucked up and people here would be incredibly pissed. The only thing we have similar to what you mentioned is a DUI or drug checkpoint, which many people including myself object to specifically because there’s been no reasonable suspicion.

That is seriously fucked up. Wow.

Despite what you see on the news channels, this is actually true for the vast, vast majority of police over here. Absolutely true.

Here many officers would have to submit their weapon and take paid administrative leave if an investigation is ongoing, but it is unlikely they would be charged unless there was evidence of wrongdoing. The presumption of innocence is with them as it is for any citizen.

1 Like

I haven’t read anything about the cop being charged with a crime only they are investigating whether or not there was excessive use of force.

Use of force rules in Italy are not much different from the US as they have a basis in common sense however, in this case, given it was an immigrant of color, the investigation will have a political element.

1 Like

Do all police in Italy dress like third world dictators? He looks like he’s ready to declare himself President for life, not chase down bad guys.

A much more stylish and flamboyant look compared to what my local cops wear!

unnamed

image

The biggest difference is bodyfat.

1 Like

Say what you want, but Italians know style. The carabinieri have more flamboyant uniforms than traffic police (polizia stradale).

2 Likes

I didn’t realize Il Duce fashion was still so popular in Italian government. The cops on the bottom look deeply engrossed in a conversation about invading Ethiopia.

I was once jailed by a 400 pound man wearing a 4 pound Ford belt buckle in rural Indiana. We had all dropped LSD right before getting arrested for the grave crime of possession of alcohol.

He forgot to lock our cell, allowing all 12 of us to wander out and ask for our cigarettes. After a few moments it dawned on him that we were his prisoners.

Good times with American law enforcement.

2 Likes

Assuming this is even a good idea, that’s really not the point of the thread. The point being that in Italy you can’t refuse to identify yourself, under any circumstances.

On the good idea part:

(once again, none of what is said in the videos applies to Italian police. I have never heard of anybody that incriminated themselves by just speaking to the police here. The comparison is starting to sound weird)

What do yo expect from a country that has a contempt of cop law?

I’ll copy past the literal law to add some context. I kept the Italian version just in case anybody understands a little bit of it, and translated it for everybody else.

Chiunque, in luogo pubblico o aperto al pubblico e in presenza di più persone, offende l’onore ed il prestigio di un pubblico ufficiale mentre compie un atto d’ufficio ed a causa o nell’esercizio delle sue funzioni è punito con la reclusione da sei mesi a tre anni

Anyone who, in a public or publicly accessible place and in presence of one of more persons, offends the honor and prestige of a public official while he or she is in their official capacity and due to or while exercising their function, shall be punished with jail from six months to 3 years

1 Like

That’s rather disturbing to my American sensibilities. I’m guilty beyond all doubt of contempt of all kinds of government officials, most recently some department of agriculture asshole who cut me off on the water and threatened me with some boating citations he had no power to issue. I told him to go fuck himself and asked for his boss’s name.

He wasn’t even a cop, just some government person checking water quality or counting the loons or something.

What a crap law! You guys need to work a little harder on getting rid of fascism.

2 Likes

That’s the case pretty much anywhere in Europe, with the possible exception of the UK. You have to present an ID when it is requested from you by a police officer/gendarme even with them giving no explanation whatsoever.

1 Like

Thanks for educating me on this, I didn’t think this was so common. It just doesn’t make sense to me.

Agreed. I also believe fascism will never truly leave Italy

1 Like

The closest thing we have to your fascistic policies here are sobriety checkpoints. This is when cops stop everyone and make everyone do a sobriety test.

These are not particularly contentious, because they’re mostly done sensibly around popular drinking spots at popular drinking times.

Otherwise cops generally need either probable cause or a warrant to bother you for anything. They can knock on your door and ask questions, but you don’t need to answer them or even open the door if they don’t have a warrant or probable cause to enter.

We can also act like complete and total assholes to the police, right to their faces, and as long as it doesn’t cross over to assault, they have to shut up and take it.

Lots of people have been doing this kind of thing lately and it hasn’t been playing out well, but that’s a separate topic.

Actually, upon further reading my initial statement was incorrect. I was curious so I googled a bit.

It varies from one EU country to another but you’re obliged to show some identification (ID card, passport, drivers license etc.) when asked by the police but there are listed situations when they can do so - border checks, maintaining public order, suspicion of a minor offense, belief that you’re being wanted by the authorities and so on.

In 'Murican terms they need a probable cause to ask you for an ID but the definitions are sufficiently vague that they can claim one or more reasons most of the time.

1 Like

After giving it a bit more thought, our most fascist LEOs might be Game Wardens. In theory, not practice. They have very broad search powers but the scope of their enforcement is limited to hunting, fishing and trapping along with ATV and snowmobile laws.

For instance, a game warden can stop my boat and search it without a warrant or probable cause to make sure I haven’t kept too many fish. If he finds no fish but instead finds 10 kilos of meth, he can arrest me for that and the charges will stick because the meth was found while conducting warden business.

He can stop any snowmobile or ATV as well. Check for unlawful wildlife and license, sobriety. Same basic idea.

Each state is different but Maine Wardens have a cool reality show. I know one warden and one guy from bouncing who were on the show. Here’s their special authority.

https://legislature.maine.gov/statutes/12/title12sec10353.html

This can happen in the USA too but IMO our courts do a good job of checking this. Nobody wants to go to all that effort to have the case thrown out.

For another anecdote of my 1990s antics in petty crime, we once sent the cops away due to no probable cause.

We had a party, a really big party. Most everyone left around sunrise. The cops bizarrely showed up in the afternoon to respond to a noise complaint presumably from the night before. We met them outside.

At that point were sober and there was obviously no party going on, but here’s the thing. My friends parents had a bumper crop of skunk #5 weed curing in the basement. To this day I’ve not been around more potent or more aromatic weed.

It obviously smelled like weed. You could smell it outside. The cops knew it was weed. It was obvious.

“We smell marijuana. Can we come in and look around?”

“That’s clove cigarettes you are smelling. You can’t enter without a warrant.”

“Can we look at your ashtrays then?”

“Not without a warrant.”

“That smells like marijuana to me.”

“Nope, clove cigarettes. If you don’t have a warrant can you please leave?”

“Yes we can. Have a nice day.”

That was the end of it. My friend avoided felony charges by telling the cops they can’t come inside. MJ in Indiana was no joke back then.

Rights came to the rescue!

3 Likes

Fascism left once the trains started running late again. One could argue fascism never really took hold in Italy. The only reason it was able to exist there for a period of time is not because Italians wanted it but because they didn’t give a shit about it one way or the other. Me ne frego…(ironically a motto of the fascists, but for other reasons).

It’s the same in Italy.

In Italy the reasons why it is isn’t allowed has nothing to do with fascism but with respect for the office and law (keeping in mind that Italians see themselves as the originators of justice systems with roots that go back to the Romans) as well as manners. In the US, call a judge an asshole and see if he doesn’t throw you in jail for contempt. Why shouldn’t cops and other officers of the law expect the same respect?

Anyone who has seen L’ispettore Coliandro knows that the police are sticklers for correct procedure.

Are you Italian, Zecarlo? I assume so if you are trying to school an Italian on Italian fascism. I always thought you were 'Murican.

2 Likes

Untrue. (The first part at least, dunno about cops knocking on someone’s door.)