For today’s Daily COVID-19 Report, Chuck Wexler checked in withCarabinieri Colonel Pietro Carrozza, who commands the Verona region of Italy, which is the part of Italy that has been hardest hit by COVID-19 . 

In previous COVID-19 Reports in April and May, Colonel Carrozza told us about how his department responded to an increase in COVID cases in Italy that peaked in late March (see graph below).   

Strict rules helped to keep Italy’s infection rates low throughout the summer. Unfortunately, last month, Italy began experiencing a severe resurgence of COVID cases. In today’s report, Colonel Carrozza describes the situation in the Verona region as of early November. 

From the beginning, Colonel Carrozza told PERF that his first concern was protecting his force, because if many carabinieri [officers] became infected, his department would not be able to do its job. As early as March, he had implemented a wide range of protective measures, including separating shifts so that officers on different shifts would never come into contact with each other. 

Colonel Carrozza also explained that Italy’s restrictions on the public last spring were quite strict. In the early weeks, many people were restricted from leaving their homes. And police in Verona were patrolling internal borders to enforce rules against people moving from one region of the country to another. 

In today’s report, Carrozza describes his department’s response to the current wave of cases.  

Source: New York Times

 7 Gold Telepadova 16 Settembre 2019 Il nuovo comandante | TG7 Nord Est

Wexler:  Pietro, can you tell us what’s happening now? 

Col. Carrozza: The situation is quite different now. [Back in the spring], we had a complete lockdown, and people were basically obeying the rules. We were enforcing the lockdown while also engaging in community policing. We were helping people with basic needs. 

But now, just today the Prime Minister instituted a new decree with new rules, which are based on the increase in the number of people infected and the people who need intensive care. What drives the new rules really is the number of people in intensive care. When those numbers reach a certain percentage, they put new restrictions on public places, on shops, bars, and restaurants, to try to reduce the number of people in intensive care.  

We have had people protesting the restrictions in the public square, because the restrictions are affecting the economy. And a few of the protests are being exploited by some extremists who want simply to cause public order problems. So the police are called to face those protests in order to guarantee a safe and secure environment in the district. 

Wexler:  It’s similar in the United States. Are the police in Italy expected to enforce the lockdown? 

Col. Carrozza: Yes, the police are expected to enforce the lockdown, to control shops, bars, and restaurants and ensure that they apply the rules, that the people inside are wearing the individual protective equipment, that they adhere to the opening and closing times, and so on. We are enforcing all of the rules issued by the Prime Minister, the President of our region, which is equivalent to the states in the U.S., and the city mayors. Each of these authorities has the authority to issue restrictions according to the local situation.  

Wexler:  We’ve read that some of your business owners have pushed back. 

Col. Carrozza: The restaurant owners, the bar owners, the shop owners are not physically pushing back at the policeThey have been protesting in a peaceful way, in a democratic way, and we had no problem. We had only on one occasion an illegal protest. Out of about 2,000 protesters, about 300 extremists pushed back at police in a violent way, but we were able to deal with the situation by using tear gas, shields, and batons.  After a couple of hours, the situation was back to normality. But 99 percent of the protests are peaceful. 

Wexler:  Was this something new, using tear gas? 

Col. Carrozza: It happens at the end of soccer games, at certain events where the police use water cannons and tear gas. But it is normally used against extremists. We always use the principle that the first step is negotiation. But if they get violent, we use tear gas, which is normally enough to disperse a crowd. 

Wexler: Did you get criticism for using tear gas? 

Col. Carrozza: No, no, no, we get the full support of the local authorities and the population, because the majority of the population is in favor of peaceful demonstrations. They do not want the public square to be destroyed by a bunch of rioters and extremists. And they know that our first step is negotiation.  

Wexler: Are your officers still wearing masks inside the police cars and the barracks and so forth? And are officers becoming infected with the virus? 

Col. Carrozza: Yes, in this second round, we have officers who are infected, and the idea is that they got infected at home. Inside the barracks, we keep wearing masks. When there is a specific intervention, we use the helmets because of the additional protection of the visor. And when there is a positive case, we proceed with the identification of the entire barrack. And they keep on cleaning their equipment, their computer, the table where they have lunch or dinner. We didn’t cancel these measures.  

Wexler:  Have you had an increase in crime due to COVID? 

Col. Carrozza: We had an increase after the first lockdown of fatal car and motorbike accidents.  And another thing, people are kind of psychologically tired, and sometimes they have weird reaction when they have a quarrel.  Yesterday  we were busy because a person had a quarrel with some workers. He had a gun in his apartment, and he barricaded himself in the apartment, so we had to convince him to surrender. Those things are happening during COVID. 

Wexler: Because we have so many guns in the United States, we’re seeing an increase in shootings and homicides. Are you seeing an increase in violent crime? 

Col. Carrozza: NoOnly fatal accidents and weird reactions when someone quarrels with another person, because they’re kind of burned out by the lockdown. 

Wexler:  As a leader, what is your strategy for motivating people? 

Col. Carrozza: Talking to people. I talk to each single carabinieri [officer] regardless of rank, I talk to everyone who is quarantined or who tests positive, I talk to their station commanders, I go out and talk to people in patrol, I write emails. This, in my opinion, is the best way to treat people, to understand their needs. And I think that leading by example is the best way to be a leader.  

Wexler:  Can you offer advice for police in the United States as we experience a new surge in COVID cases? 

Col. Carrozza: This is a difficult question. My advice is to gather information about the evolution of the social situation, to engage local communities, to engage the leaders of associations of entrepreneurs, the associations of restaurants and bars and so on, in order to have a dialogue prior to protests. So that in this way you can try to channel the protests in peaceful ways.  

People want to work, so it is a legitimate request from them. I think this is very important, because you cannot go in a square and put a police officer who is a father or a mother, a worker, against other fathers, other mothers, other workers. It is better to have a channel of communication.  

And in this way, you can also talk with your superior authorities about the feelings of the population, so that their needs can be proposed to the governmental authorities.


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.