Timeline: On or about 5 pm. Friday, October 4, 2019, in Trieste, Italy. A jobless immigrant from the Dominican Republic brought in for questioning in connection with the theft of a motor scooter while inside the Trieste HQ of Italy’s State Police suddenly disarms one cop and then another. Armed with the service guns of the two officers the man opens fire killing the two disarmed policemen and wounding another three. Before being apprehended, however, twenty-nine-year-old Alejandro Meran manages to squeeze off some 23 rounds at no less than a dozen policemen.
The event has thrown the country into a tizzy: some are for the police no matter what, some tend to sum Catholic Jean Valjean piety with Marxist-Leninist materialism to forgive practically anyone who commits a crime because “…forced to steal by necessity”, others blame politicians for providing the police with shoddy equipment to save money for their welfare schemes. A Cook known as “Chef Ruby” got lambasted by the mainstream press for tweeting that the police are poorly trained and ill-equipped. Chef Ruby, however, is probably closer to the truth than the State would like you to believe.
People familiar with Italy know that one rarely sees a policeman on the streets over here. The business and residential sections of Italian cities are not regularly patrolled as they are elsewhere. The Authorities have spent Millions on CCTV cameras that keep everyone under surveillance. Cops rarely arrest anyone in the flagrant act of committing a crime. It is a lot less risky to simply go through the tapes and arrest a suspect perhaps at 3 am when the guy is sleeping in his home or hotel room. Most of the experienced cops are over forty and kept busy indoors doing clerical work. The younger inexperienced cops do the patrolling (mostly in cars, hardly ever on foot). A small American town like Larchmont or Scarsdale, New York probably has more cars out on patrol day or night than a city like Modena. Why?
Well, Italy has plum run out of money. The country stopped growing substantially in 1989 and ceased growing altogether after the 2008 financial crisis, which may have been imported from the USA but which the Italians did their best to nurture. Today, the only income this centralized State manages to generate seems to come from taxes, which Italians understandably do not relish paying (given the results) and which are on the decline because Italian pocketbooks are increasingly empty.
So there is little gas for patrol cars, which often break down for lack of maintenance. Big cities are lucky to have 4 or 5 patrol cars out at any given time of the day or night. There is little money for bulletproof vests, helmets, shields, tasers and other such items of self-defense for the police, which literally have their hands tied. Indeed, Italian law is tougher on cops than it is on criminals.
If an Italian cop draws his weapon and fires he knows he will be investigated by the State’s Public Prosecutor. If he bludgeons someone that is resisting arrest he knows he will be investigated by the State’s Public Prosecutor. If the suspect brought into the Station for questioning or the Italian equivalent of booking has too many marks on his face and body, the cop knows he will be investigated by the State’s Public Prosecutor. A recent law prohibiting “torture” is just another one of the many crimes Italian Poicemen can be charged with if they use excessive force.
Ask yourself, with so few cops out on the streets, where are you most likely to find one in Italy? Why in a Police Station of course! Precisely. And the Trieste Station was crawling with cops. Still, the gunman managed to disarm and kill two cops and wounded three more. Incredibly, the shooter manages to get off 23 rounds while shooting his way out of the Station. On CCTV we see the shooter exit the Station and calmly head for one of the parked cars nearby when a patrol car spots him and brings him down with a shot below the belt. These cops momentarily hailed as heroes by the press could be in deep trouble. They will in all likelihood be investigated by the State’s Public Prosecutor. After all, shooting the guy in the groin seems excessive, does it not?