Federico Aldrovandi’s parents and friends have become used to the noisy actions of the Coisp police union in defending the killers of the 18 year old boy, murdered in 2005 in Ferrara by four police officers. But on April 29 the ultimate provocation came from another union, SAP, during its conference in Rimini.
Union members applauded for five minutes and gave a standing ovation to the officers who were found guilty of culpable homicide in 2012. The guilty verdict came at the end of a trial which had to contend with the killers’ colleagues changing tack and altering evidence, and was only arrived at thanks to the struggle of Federico’s parents and friends. And the sentences were quite mild, three years and six months of prison, then reduced to barely six months.
In February 2014, the killers returned to work, in Federico’s town.
The SAP union has always said that the police officers who killed Federico were the real victims, and its secretary, Gianni Tonelli, has even remarked that “kids die on the streets while driving, but no one blames the streets”. By such reasoning, it appears that police officers should not be blamed if a young man dies while under arrest.
The SAP union is considered “more moderate” than Coisp, and it is significantly bigger. Taking up this kind of stance on police abuse is part of a strategy to compete with Coisp for the most right-wing position but it seems as though the standing ovation for Aldrovandi’s killers was too much for many SAP members. These police officers took to the union’s social network pages, declaring they wanted to tear up their membership cards. Indignation was so strong that even Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and Minister of the Interior Angelo Alfano had to condemn the action, as did all the centre and centre-left police unions.
Violence, abuse and the impunity of Italian law enforcement agencies are well known and are commonly found in officers’ behaviour during protests and demonstrations but also during common arrest. An example of the latter is the case of Riccardo Magherini, who died while under arrest in Florence on March 3rd. Four Carabinieri agents are under investigation for unintentional homicide and five health workers for culpable homicide. It appears that Riccardo was held immobilized and handcuffed with his chest naked on cold ground while the officers pushed him down, suffocating him, until he died. The health workers who first intervened did not free him from the handcuffs nor did they move him from the position to allow him to breath.
Journalist Marco Preve recently wrote a book entitled Il partito della polizia (“The police as a political party”) in which he puts forward that the Italian police, in its higher echelons, behaves like a political party, defending and upholding its own claims, such as impunity. This is a party which has built itself up, especially over the last twenty years, with political friendships advancing the careers of top officials despite their convictions for abuses during the 2001 G8 meeting in Genoa.