Carabiniere in Bologna
Motorcycle patrols of the Polizia di Stato.
Motorcycle patrols of the Polizia di Stato.

Law enforcement in Italy is centralized on a national level, carried out by multiple national forces, helped by few limited local agencies. The Italian law enforcement system is considered complex, with multiple police forces and other agencies taking part in different duties.[1] According to Italian system, as "policing" we can refer to the duties of "full-powered officers" coming from the three national main forces: Polizia di Stato (State Police), Carabinieri and, even if generally active in specific fields, Guardia di Finanza (Financial Guard). While these three corps' duties spaces from investigating, preventing to arresting, other local forces carry out restricted and limited duties and will always subjected to the main ones.

The two main police forces in the country are the Carabinieri, the national gendarmerie, and the Polizia di Stato, the civil national police. The third one is the Guardia di Finanza, a militarized police force responsible for dealing with financial crime, smuggling, illegal drug trade, and others. The main forces are managed and organized on a provincial level under the authority of the Questore (the local head of police) in accord with the Prefetto, the provincial representative of the Government.[2]

Border and Maritime patrolling are undertaken by the Guardia di Finanza and Guardia Costiera (coast guard police). The Polizia Penitenziaria (Prison Police) is the national prison police agency, controlling penitentiaries and taking care of in and out transfers. The Corpo Forestale dello Stato (State Forestry Corps) formerly existed as a separate national park ranger agency,[1][3] but was merged into the Carabinieri in 2016.[4] Although policing in Italy is primarily provided on a national basis,[3] there also exists Polizia Provinciale (provincial police) and Polizia Municipale (municipal police).[1]

Carabinieri and Polizia di Stato during inspections.
Carabinieri and Polizia di Stato during inspections.

Law enforcement in Italy is an exclusive function of the State and is organized under the Ministry of the Interior, with provincial division and jurisdiction.[5] The highest office in charge of law enforcement is the ministerial office of "Dipartimento della Pubblica Sicurezza".[2][6]

The Arma dei Carabinieri, commonly known as ‘’Carabinieri’’, which are also Military Police for the Italian Armed Forces. The Carabinieri is also in charge of investigation or intervention inside Public Administrations and personal right violations, but mainly because of their history as “defenders of the Constitution" (It is not by chance that the President of Republic safety corps is a special section of Carabinieri called Corazzieri). For this last reason, Carabinieri stations are usually distributed all over the country, with a station approximately in every municipality (or at least every range of 5 km), with additional stations in strategical positions along the motorways.[7]

In 2005, the total number of active police officers in all of the agencies was 324,339 in Italy, the highest number in the European Union both overall and per capita, twice the number of agents in the similarly sized United Kingdom.[8]


National police forces

Polizia di Stato

Main article: Polizia di Stato

Polizia di Stato in 2011
Polizia di Stato in 2011

The Polizia di Stato (State Police) is the civil national police of Italy. Along with patrolling, investigative and law enforcement duties, it patrols the Autostrada (Italy's Express Highway network), and oversees the security of railways, bridges, and waterways.[9]

It is a civilian police force, while the Carabinieri and the Guardia di Finanza are military.[9] While its internal organization and mindset are somewhat military, its personnel is composed of civilians. Its headquarters are in Rome, and there are Regional and Provincial divisions throughout the Italian territory.

Interpol summarizes the primary focus of the Polizia di Stato (Ministry of Interior): "Its responsibilities include investigative and law enforcement duties, and the security of motorway, railway, and waterway networks".[10]

Europol (the EU's law enforcement agency), provides this summary of the force's responsibilities: "protecting the state, safeguarding the rights and freedoms of citizens, supervising the maintenance of public order, maintaining public safety, providing assistance to public entities and private in the event of accidents and disasters as well as the peaceful resolution of disputes between private individuals. It also deals with the training and education, at its facilities, of members of other police bodies... specialty departments include the Traffic, Railway, Communications Police, the Mobile Departments and the Scientific Police.[11]

A program Polizia di Quartiere ("Neighborhood Police") has been implemented which increases police presence and deters crime. Pairs of poliziotti (policemen) or carabinieri patrol areas of major cities on foot or by bike.[12]

Guardia di Finanza

Main article: Guardia di Finanza

Guardia di Finanza (2007)
Guardia di Finanza (2007)

The Guardia di Finanza, (English: Financial Guard) is a military corps under the authority of the Minister of Economy and Finance, with a role as a police force.[9]

The Corps is in charge of financial, economic, judiciary and public safety: tax evasion, financial crimes, smuggling, money laundering, international illegal drug trafficking, illegal immigration, customs and borders checks, copyright violations, anti-Mafia operations, credit card fraud, cybercrime, counterfeiting, terrorist financing, maintaining public order, and safety, political and military defense of the Italian borders.[9]

Interpol summarizes the primary focus Guardia di Finanza (Ministry of Economy and Finance) as "a force with military status and nationwide remit for financial crime investigations; Its responsibilities include investigative and law enforcement duties, and the security of motorway, railway, and waterway networks".[10] Europol (the EU's law enforcement agency), provides this summary: "organized according to a military structure ... the tasks of the Guardia di Finanza consist of the prevention, search and denunciation of evasions and financial violations, in the supervision of the observance of the provisions of political and economic interest and in the surveillance at sea for financial police purposes. ... it also contributes to the maintenance of order and public security, to military defense along national borders for the illegal drug trade ".[11]

The Guardia di Finanza has a strength of around 68,000 soldiers working as agents, NCOs and officers. Its militaries are in service in the Europol, Eurojust and the European Anti-Fraud Office. Its Latin motto since 1933 is Nec recisa recedit (English: Not Even Broken Retreats). The Guardia di Finanza also maintains boats, ships and aircraft to fulfill its mission of patrolling Italy's territorial waters.[13][14]

During demonstrations and very big events, the Guardia di Finanza is often called on duty as riot police.[15]

Arma dei Carabinieri

Main article: Arma dei Carabinieri

Carabinieri in full uniform
Carabinieri in full uniform

The Carabinieri is the common name for the Arma dei Carabinieri, a Gendarmerie-like military corps with police duties.[9] They also serve as the military police for the Italian armed forces.

Interpol summarizes this force (part of the Ministry of Defence), with military status, as having "nationwide remit for crime investigations. It also serves as the military police for the Italian armed forces and can be called upon for national defence action."[10] According to Europol (the EU's law enforcement agency), the Carabinieri Corps' military duties include "contributing to national defense, participating in military operations in Italy and abroad, executing military police functions and ensuring the security of Italian diplomatic and consular representations". As a national police force, it "carries out public order and security policing, as well as investigative activities on its own initiative or at the request of the judicial authorities".[11]

The Carabinieri have become a separate armed force (alongside the Army, Navy and Air Force), thus ending their long-standing tradition as the First Corps (Arma) of the Italian Army (Esercito).[9] They are referred to as the Arma or La Benemerita (The Meritorious Corps).

Carabinieri units have been dispatched all over the world in peacekeeping missions, including Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq.

In November 2003, twelve Carabinieri of the Multinational Specialized Unit were killed in a suicide bomb attack on their base in Nasiriyah, in southern Iraq. This was Italy's largest military loss in a single action since World War II.

Until 2001,[16] only men were allowed to become part of the Arma (or any military force, for that matter), but military reforms allow women to serve in the Italian military, including Carabinieri.

Having both military police duties and civil police duties, the Arma is usually called on duty as riot police during big events and demonstrations.

According to Europol, this force has "4,672 stations and lieutenancies".[11]

Polizia Penitenziaria

Main article: Polizia Penitenziaria

Polizia Penitenziaria (2008)
Polizia Penitenziaria (2008)

The Polizia Penitenziaria (Prison Guards, literally Penitentiary Police, also translated as Prison Police Corps)[11] operates the Italian prison system and handles the transportation of inmates.[9] The training academies for the Polizia Penitenziaria are located in Aversa, Monastir, Cairo Montenotte, Castiglione delle Stiviere, Parma, Portici, Rome, San Pietro Clarenza, Verbania and Sulmona.

Its agents are sometimes called to help the other police forces during major events.

According to Interpol, this force (part of the Ministry of Justice) has a "nationwide remit for prison security, inmate safety and transportation".[10] Europol (the EU's law enforcement agency), provides more specifics as to the corps' responsibilities:[11]

to "ensure order and security inside and outside the buildings, preventing unauthorized entry or exit. In addition, they manage to organize and educate for inmates, and provide transport, escort and guard services for prisoners. The Corps has its own marine service and dog and horse units. Finally, the Penitentiary Police can be deployed to carry out public order and security functions, including public rescue, in cases where they are required to help provide specific civil protection".

Corpo Forestale dello Stato (dissolved)

Main article: Corpo Forestale dello Stato

Main article: Comando unità forestali, ambientali e agroalimentari

Former Corpo Forestale dello Stato (2009)
Former Corpo Forestale dello Stato (2009)

The Corpo Forestale dello Stato (National Forestry Department, now dissolved) was responsible for law enforcement in Italian national parks and forests.[9] Their duties included enforcing poaching laws, safeguarding protected animal species and preventing forest fires.[9]

Founded in 1822, the Corpo Forestale dello Stato was a civilian police force specialized on the environmental protection. A recent law reform expanded its duties to food controls.[17] In Italy, it had the responsibility to manage the activities related to the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species). The Autonomous Region of Sardinia has its own corp of forestry police.[18]

Corpo Forestale dello Stato was dissolved on December 31, 2016, and all personnel become militarized and absorbed into the Carabinieri's Comando unità per la tutela forestale, ambientale e agroalimentare.[19]


The Direzione Investigativa Antimafia (or DIA) (Anti-Mafia Investigation Directorate) is a joint organization of Polizia di Stato, Carabinieri, Polizia Penitenziaria and Guardia di Finanza for the fight against organized crime. Founded in 1991, under the authority of the Minister of Interior as the Direzione Nazionale Antimafia (National Anti-Mafia Directorate). Its operations include preemptive investigations, judicial investigations, and international relations, and it investigates characteristics, objectives, and methods of the Mafia as well as their domestic and international contacts. The DIA was to prevent mafiosi from infiltrating the government.[20]

Interpol's National Central Bureau for Italy is part of the International Police Cooperation Service (SCIP), a branch of the Public Security Department (PSD). "SCIP is a multi-agency DPS unit: the Polizia di Stato, Carabinieri and Guardia di Finanza head it, on a rotation basis. Officers representing all police forces staff it", the agency states.[10]

The Direzione Centrale per i Servizi Antidroga (Central Directorate for Anti-Drug Services) is a joint organization of Polizia di Stato, Carabinieri and Guardia di Finanza for the fight against drug trafficking. Founded in 1976 as Direzione Anti Droga (Anti-Drug Directorate), is under the authority of the Criminal police department of the Minister of Interior.[21]

Local police forces

Local communities in Italy also have responsibility for local police issues.

They generally fall into either:

Provincial Police

Polizia Provinciale car
Polizia Provinciale car

The Polizia Provinciale (Provincial Police) is local police only used in some of the 109 Provinces of Italy.

Their main tasks are to enforce regional and national hunting and fishing laws, but have also expanded in wildlife management and environmental protection.[22] As well as providing a traffic police service and participation in the security services arranged by the authorities.[22]

Some municipal police forces in Italy trace historical origins to the vigili urbani and comes stabili of ancient Rome.[23] Urban policing emerged in the 13th to 14th centuries in the Italian comunes (such as Bologna); although police forces have been assumed to be a modern innovation, these medieval forces had some similarities to modern police forces.[24] Today, Italian municipal forces go by various names, such as polizia comunale (comune police), polizia urbana (urban police), and polizia locale (local police).[25]

Municipal and Local Police

Polizia Municipale officers
Polizia Municipale officers

In addition, each comune has its own Polizia Municipale (Municipal Police) whose main duty is traffic control and responsibilities relating to licenses and urban regulations.[26]

The municipal police also serve as auxiliaries to security police forces and have responsibilities for local crime prevention and community policing.[26] The competence (jurisdiction) of municipal police are limited to their specific municipality.[26]

Regional Forces in Sardinia and other Autonomous Regions

Some Autonomous Regions have special forces of local police that answer to the Regional Government and whose jurisdiction is the whole regional territory or the municipality. Their normative reference is the same of every other local police, Municipal or Provincial, but differs for activities or extension of the authority.[27]

For Example, Sardinia has never got any officer of Corpo Forestale as regional law on nature, parks, fire, and forestry is carried out by its own regional Corpo forestale e di vigilanza ambientale, since 1985. Moreover, due to its agricultural and pastoral society, every Sardinian town has both Polizia Municipale, and Corpo Barracellare, a volunteer civilian corps that - during nighttime or when needed by the municipality - is enforced to prevent animal theft, farm robbery or other farm damages.

Animal Protection

Volunteers of the Guardie Zoofile
Volunteers of the Guardie Zoofile

In some areas, there is an animal protection force, or Guardie Zoofile, that rescue animals in distress and protect animals and wildlife. Agents (as local police officials are generally known in Italy) are volunteer private citizens, who have received some training and have limited powers, with regards to the safety of animals.[28]

The law (number 189) of 20 July 2004, (relating to the acts of animal abuse), assigns the functions and qualifications of the judicial police to the guards of the protectionist and zoophile associations. This means that they can (and must) continue to take care of the protection of all animals and the protection of livestock - in their capacity as zoophile guards and therefore as public officials of the administrative and judicial police. The guards (recognized by decree issued by the Prefecture) do not have jurisdiction in hunting matters.[29][30]

Agents will check that people are in compliance with all animal-related municipal, regional and national directives and laws and may report them to the Carabinieri, Polizia di Stato, Polizia Locale or Forestry Carabinieri as appropriate.[31]

Some agents have been injured in the line of duty, such as one volunteer who was bit by a dangerous dog, who had been set loose by the owner. In this case, volunteers are public officials in exercising their role as zoophile guards and are protected as such.[32]

Uniforms and Equipment

The Agents generally wear green uniforms, although different to the Guardia di Finanza and Polizia Locale. As with different local police forces in Italy, they may wear various combinations of:

  1. Some agents do carry firearms (pistols), but some do not, with differing opinion on the subject.[34][35][36][32]
  2. There is a more formal uniform (as suit similar to GdiF and Polizia uniforms) that some agents wear.
  3. Motor vehicles used by the Guardie Zoofile generally are marked with such wording and have blue lights and sirens.[37][38]


Group of Zaptié in Italian Somaliland (1939).
Group of Zaptié in Italian Somaliland (1939).

The Organizzazione di Vigilanza Repressione dell'Antifascismo (or OVRA) (English: Organization for Vigilance in Repression of Anti-Fascism) was a secret police organization in Italy during fascism.

The Polizia dell'Africa Italiana or PAI (Police of Italian Africa) (1936–1944).

The Guardia Nazionale Repubblicana or GNR (National Republic Guard) was a paramilitary force of the Italian Social Republic created by decree on December 8, 1943, replacing the Carabinieri and the MVSN.

Zaptié were locally raised gendarmerie units in the Italian colonies of Italian Tripolitania, Italian Cyrenaica, Italian Eritrea and Italian Somaliland between 1889 and 1942.

Zaptié were used during the period of Trust Territory of Somaliland from 1950 to 1960. Members were sent to Italy to train and after 1960 the merged into the Somali Police Force.

Private Security

Two private security cars (Fiat Puntos) in Milan 2015 with a Guardia di Finanza van
Two private security cars (Fiat Puntos) in Milan 2015 with a Guardia di Finanza van

As with most of Western Europe, private security organisations play a part in security of money, valuables, property and people.

In Italy, a guard, or security officer, is known as a Guardia di Sicurezza. They maybe part of a private security organisation, known as a Servizi di Vigilanza Privata and patrol certain areas or guard buildings.

Services include:

There are certain requirements, similar to police, in order for citizens to become security agents. They must:

Uniforms and Equipment

Some guards are armed (generally with pistols), similar to police, but some are not.[41] These are generally semi-automatic pistols, or revolvers. The licence to carry this must be obtained from the Prefecture by the private security organisation, or the hiring organisation. This is subject to weapon-handling competency checks and health checks.[42]

Uniforms vary greatly from company to company and are often similar, but distinct, to the state and local police forces. Often marked vehicles are used for security work.[43]


A Lamborghini Gallardo of the Polizia di Stato, used for emergency intervention and transport of organs, parked in Piazza Unità d'Italia in Trieste
A Lamborghini Gallardo of the Polizia di Stato, used for emergency intervention and transport of organs, parked in Piazza Unità d'Italia in Trieste
Polizia di Stato Fiat Grande Punto
Polizia di Stato Fiat Grande Punto
Carabinieri Alfa Romeo 159
Carabinieri Alfa Romeo 159
A Polizia di Stato boat in Venice
A Polizia di Stato boat in Venice

Until recently, all Italian police forces were equipped with Italian-made police cars, with Alfa Romeos most common.[44] A patrol car belonging to Polizia is nicknamed Pantera (Panther), one used by the Carabinieri is nicknamed Gazzella (Gazelle).[45]

Every force has helicopters, trucks and campers (used as mobile offices, usually in undercover missions). In Venice, which is built across several islands linked by bridges and surrounded by water, public security and fire brigades work with boats.[46] In 2004, Lamborghini donated two Lamborghini Gallardo police cars to the Polizia di Stato on their 152nd anniversary.[47]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Reece Walters (2013). "Eco Mafia and Environmental Crime". In Kerry Carrington; Matthew Ball; Erin O'Brien; Juan Tauri (eds.). Crime, Justice and Social Democracy. Crime, Justice and Social Democracy: International Perspectives. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 286. doi:10.1057/9781137008695_19. ISBN 978-1-349-43575-3.
  2. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2017-10-13. Retrieved 2019-06-10.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ a b Paulo Buonanno; Giovanni Mastrobuoni (2013). "Centralized versus Decentralized Police Hiring in Italy and the United States". In Philip J. Cook; Stephen Machin; Olivier Marie; Giovanni Mastrobuoni (eds.). Lessons from the Economics of Crime: What Reduces Offending?. MIT Press. p. 193. doi:10.7551/mitpress/9780262019613.001.0001. ISBN 978-0-262-01961-3.
  4. ^ Grazia Maria Vagliasindi (2017). "Environmental Criminal Law in Italy". In Andrew Farmer; Michael Faure; Grazia Maria Vagliasindi (eds.). Environmental Crime in Europe. Modern Studies in European Law. Bloomsbury.
  5. ^ "Field Organization". Polizia di Stato (in Italian). Retrieved 2021-10-06.
  6. ^ "Administration and Logistics". Retrieved 9 November 2021.
  7. ^ "Stazioni Carabinieri". (in Italian). Retrieved 2021-10-06.
  8. ^ "Crime and Criminal Justice - Issue number 19/2008 (KS-SF-08-019)". Archived from the original on 12 August 2011. Retrieved 9 November 2021.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Forze di polizia" (in Italian). Retrieved 19 April 2022.
  10. ^ a b c d e "Italie". Interpol. 1 March 2016. Retrieved 28 July 2019.
  11. ^ a b c d e f "Italy". Europol. 7 March 2018. Retrieved 28 July 2019.
  12. ^ "Più sicurezza nei quartieri" (in Italian). Retrieved 19 April 2022.
  13. ^ "Bioterrorismo e politiche di prevenzione" (in Italian). Retrieved 19 April 2022.
  14. ^ "Compiti istituzionali" (in Italian). Retrieved 19 April 2022.
  15. ^ "Scontri a Roma: polizia "disarmata" le norme in piazza risalgono al 1931" (in Italian). 11 October 2021. Retrieved 19 April 2022.
  16. ^ "Dlgs 215/2001". Retrieved 9 November 2021.
  17. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-06-24. Retrieved 2009-07-05.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  18. ^ "SardegnaCorpoForestale - Home page". Retrieved 2021-10-06.
  19. ^ "TUTELA FORESTALE, AMBIENTALE E AGROALIMENTARE" (in Italian). Retrieved 24 April 2022.
  20. ^ Jamieson, Alison. The Antimafia. Great Britain: Antony Rowe Ltd., 2000. Print
  21. ^ "Direzione Centrale per i Servizi Antidroga" (PDF) (in Italian). Retrieved 24 April 2022.
  22. ^ a b "Corpo di Polizia provinciale" (in Italian). Retrieved 24 April 2022.
  23. ^ Daniel Donnelly, Municipal Policing in the European Union: Comparative Perspectives (2013), p. 34.
  24. ^ Gregory Roberts, Police Power in the Italian Communes, 1228-1326 (Amsterdam University Press, 2019).
  25. ^ Daniel Donnelly, Municipal Policing in the European Union: Comparative Perspectives (2013), pp. 4, 34.
  26. ^ a b c Elke Devroe & Paul Ponsaers, "European national police systems and metropolitan realities" in Policing European Metropolises: The Politics of Security in City-Regions (eds. Elke Devroe, Adam Edwards & Paul Ponsaers: Routledge, 2017), pp. 32-33.
  27. ^
  28. ^ "Articolo 57 Codice di procedura penale" (in Italian). Retrieved 24 April 2022.
  30. ^ "Le guardie zoofile non possono fare accertamenti in materia di caccia". Armi e Tiro (in Italian). 2019-06-06. Retrieved 2021-10-06.
  31. ^ a b c "Emergenza coronavirus, super lavoro per le guardie zoofile savonesi di "Fare Ambiente" -". Il Vostro Giornale (in Italian). 2020-04-14. Retrieved 2021-10-06.
  32. ^ a b "Aizza il cane contro la guardia zoofila". La Nuova Sardegna (in Italian). 2014-09-04. Retrieved 2021-10-06.
  33. ^ "Cani rinchiusi nel giardino-lager, ristoratore scoperto e denunciato dalle guardie eco-zoofile". (in Italian). Retrieved 2021-10-06.
  34. ^ "Porto d'armi, è un diritto delle guardie zoofile? - BigHunter". Retrieved 2021-10-06.
  35. ^ "Judicial Police. License to carry guns in favor of ENPA zoophilic special guard". Retrieved 9 November 2021.
  36. ^ (2017-11-03). "Per le guardie zoofile volontarie ora è più facile armarsi". Armi Magazine (in Italian). Retrieved 2021-10-06.
  37. ^ "Photographic image of Guardie Zoofile vehicle" (JPEG). Retrieved 9 November 2021.
  38. ^ "Photographic image of Guardie Zoofile vehicle and officers" (JPG). Retrieved 9 November 2021.
  39. ^ a b says, Roberto Di Orazio (2019-10-30). "Tariffe vigilanza privata: quali sono i costi?". New Master Police (in Italian). Retrieved 2021-10-06.
  40. ^ "Come diventare guardia giurata: requisiti minimi e aggiuntivi". New Master Police (in Italian). 2019-07-18. Retrieved 2021-10-06.
  41. ^ "Semina il caos all'Inps, bloccato da una guardia giurata: "Ha cercato di prendermi la pistola"". Cronache Maceratesi (in Italian). 2019-10-14. Retrieved 2021-10-06.
  42. ^ "Rilascio del porto di pistola per guardia giurata armata". Prefettura - Ufficio Territoriale del Governo di Ancona (in Italian). 2000-12-31. Retrieved 2021-10-06.
  43. ^ "Photographic image of Corpo Guardie Di Citta vehicle and officer" (JPG). Retrieved 9 November 2021.
  44. ^ "Alfa 159 entra nel parco auto di Polizia e Carabinieri" (in Italian). Retrieved 24 April 2022.
  45. ^ ""Storie Alfa Romeo": Gazzelle e Pantere, le Alfa in divisa" (in Italian). 20 May 2020. Retrieved 24 April 2022.
  46. ^ "All'Arsenale di Venezia presentazione delle nuove motovedette del servizio navale dei Carabinieri" (in Italian). 9 September 2020. Retrieved 24 April 2022.
  47. ^ "Lamborghini Gallardo Polizia" (in Italian). 18 December 2013. Retrieved 24 April 2022.
  48. ^ "Carabinieri". Retrieved 2021-10-06.
  49. ^ "Customs Authority". Retrieved 2021-10-06.
  50. ^ "Police". Retrieved 2021-10-06.
  51. ^ "Prison Service". Retrieved 9 November 2021.
  52. ^ "State Forestry Corps". Retrieved 2021-10-06.