April 30, 2020


PERF’s COVID-19 coronavirus resources, including past editions of the Daily COVID-19 Report, are available at https://www.policeforum.org/coronavirus.


Italy’s Perspective:  Remarkably Similar to the United States

Italy had an early outbreak of COVID-19, and has had more cases than any country other than the United States and Spain, and more deaths than any country other than the United States. To find out how Italian police are responding to the pandemic, PERF Executive Director Chuck Wexler spoke with Carabinieri Colonel Pietro Carrozza, who commands the Verona region, the part of Italy that was hardest hit by COVID-19.

In Italy, the Arma dei Carabinieri is a national para-military force, and the Polizia di Stato are civil national police.

Despite the differences in the structure of policing in Italy and the United States, there are remarkable similarities in Colonel Carrozza’s actions and those carried out by American police departments and sheriffs’ offices.

Their first conversation, in early April, was about the steps that Colonel Carrozza was taking to protect his officers. This week, Colonel Carrozza spoke again with Chuck Wexler about the country’s plans to ease some regulations.


Early April: Protecting Officers

Wexler: What impact has this had on your workforce?

Col. Carrozza: Out of 1,000 officers, I have 15 who have tested positive. Fortunately, we have not lost anyone.

Wexler: How did you keep that number so low?

Col. Carrozza: My first concern, since the very beginning, has been medically protecting my force. If I have carabinieri [officers] infected with the virus, we cannot perform our police tasks. Moreover, if a lot of carabinieri are infected with the virus, other carabinieri may see the effects of the virus on their colleagues, and there may be a problem with morale and motivating people to get out on patrol with the will to perform their police tasks. 

These are some of the first protection measures I took:

  • I checked that every single station had glass panels to protect the carabinieri from infection by citizens coming into the station to report a crime.
  • I closed our waiting rooms, because it’s a place where the virus can spread. Now people wait two meters apart outside and come inside one at a time.
  • I shut down the elevator, because it’s a place where people can easily spread the virus.
  • I decreased the number of seats in the mess by 50%, and people are now eating two meters apart. When they finish eating, they have to wipe down the tables.
  • I created an isolated area under CCTV surveillance where people can get the weapons they need for duty without coming into contact with anyone else.
  • I separated shifts, so the morning shift was not meeting with the afternoon shift, and the afternoon shift was not meeting with the evening shift.
  • We patrol in couples, so there are two patrolmen or patrolwomen per car. I made those couples fixed, so they are not rotating. Carabinieri sleep on-base, so the pair is made up of people who are sleeping in the same room. Then if a patrol is contaminated, they don’t spread the virus.
  • I have carabinieri clean the inside of their cars after every shift.
  • I stopped every kind of training.
  • I have the entire barracks sanitized every two weeks.

My area of responsibility is one of the most affected areas of Italy. As a commander, you have to be very strict about imposing force protection rules. I gave the orders, then I was out checking that the orders were applied night and day.

Wexler: How do you keep your officers from contracting the virus from each other?

Col. Carrozza: When they patrol with a partner, they wear a mask at all times. If they are in a car, they wear a mask in the car. When they check a suspect, they wear a public order helmet with the visor closed, for extra protection. They clean the car and all equipment after they finish a shift.

For people in the office, there is no more than one person in each room at a time. I arranged the shifts so that there is one-third the normal number of people working in the office at a time.

I was able to get the names of people who are positive and in quarantine from the health unit. So when officers are outside in the street and are checking someone, they call the operational room and check if the person is positive or in quarantine.

Wexler: When an officer has symptoms of COVID-19, what do they do? What about their partners?

Col. Carrozza: If they show any symptom of COVID, they stay home, and I also quarantine their partner or any officers they were in contact with. Then I fast-track the testing to find out if my officer is positive.

If the partner tests negative and don’t show any symptoms, they can go back to work.

Wexler: How long does it take you to do the testing and get the results?

Col. Carrozza:  24 hours.

Wexler:  Is this like anything you’ve faced in your policing career?

Col. Carrozza:  No, this is unprecedented. We’ve had earthquakes, we’ve had flooding, we’ve had windstorms, but you know when those start and you know when they end.

The virus is an invisible enemy, and you have to change your way of life. You have to explain to your comrades that the normal rules do not apply anymore.

Wexler: Do your officers accept these regulations?

Col. Carrozza:  Yes, because I talk with my personnel a lot. You have to explain that hygiene rules are important, and that social distancing is important.


Late April: Preparing to Relax Some Regulations

On April 26, Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced a series of measures to ease restrictions on daily life in Italy. The measures will begin on May 4 and continue to be phased in through May and into June. Colonel Carrozza described how those changes affect the police:

Wexler: How is the Italian government easing regulations in May, and how will the police response change?

Col. Carrozza: Currently, the government is allowing people to practice sports around their houses. People can move in cities where they reside. They can go to supermarkets; and restaurants and pizzerias can do deliveries and take-aways.

On May 4, the government is allowing movement within the region where a person resides to go to work, go to medical checks, or to meet with relatives. They can also go to their vacation house to do maintenance, but only one person at a time and only while they are doing maintenance. This is called “Phase 2,” with more freedom of movement.

Wexler: What is the role of police in these situations?

Col. Carrozza: In these situations, police check that people are legally moving from place A to place B, and enforce restrictions on movement. If someone violates the law, they are going to pay a fine. If they escalate by giving false identification or false information, we may arrest them.

On the other side, we are helping people in their daily lives. For instance, we bring elderly people their pensions from the bank when they request our help. We help schools deliver tablets and computers to students. We help elderly people who are not able to do their grocery shopping. We help hospitals with procuring oxygen.

Wexler: What lessons have you learned from all this?

Col. Carrozza: The first lesson is to be very cautious about mitigating the risk of disease within your department. That’s particularly important now as we transition from Phase 1 to Phase 2.

During this transition, police officers may feel that the threat is finished, and that is not true. The threat is still there.

Police departments will face problems related to the pressure that the population is feeling, and the economic problems. When people feel like they are in a cage, when they lose their jobs and incomes, they react. This is happening right now. We have a lot of protests. At this moment they are peaceful protests, but they could easily turn into violent protests.

Wexler: Can you predict when things will be back to normal in Italy?

Col. Carrozza: I think we are gradually moving towards a kind of normality in June, meaning people will be free to travel among our different regions. But people will still have to be wearing masks and wearing gloves or using sanitizer on their hands.


Community Policing in Eureka, CA

Chief Steve Watson of Eureka, CA sent PERF this message:

In the April 27 PERF COVID report, Stockton, CA Chief Eric Jones’s point about not retreating from community policing resonated with me.   The Eureka Police Department recently learned of a sweet woman named Helen Sweezo who was turning 100.  Helen was supposed to ride in the Rhododendron Parade and have a big birthday celebration at the Eureka Woman’s Club over the weekend. Unfortunately, because of the COVID-19 crisis, both events were canceled. 

The Eureka PD’s Crime Analyst/Public Information Officer, Brittany Powell, decided to work with Helen’s family and our community partners to coordinate a small Rhododendron Parade in Helen’s honor.  We brought the parade to her!  The Eureka Police Department, Humboldt Bay Fire Department, Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office, Old Town Rotary Club, Eureka Woman’s Club, along with many of Helen’s friends and family, paraded by her house in her honor. We wished Helen a very Happy Birthday, but I think she made our day even more than we made hers. 

Here’s a short video of the parade.




The PERF Daily COVID-19 Report is part of the Critical Issues in Policing project, supported by the Motorola Solutions Foundation.


PERF also is grateful to the Howard G. Buffett Foundation for supporting PERF’s COVID-19 work.

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