Stefano

Policeman

stefano groot

He had just made lunch, pasta of course. And a glass of red wine.

‘We have something that many countries are jealous of,’ Stefano says, ‘we have carabinieri-stations in many places, also in small villages. And that’s good especially in times of terrorism: to prevent it, it’s crucial to have a presence. In France, with these Charlie Hebdo-attacks, there was a security failure on the part of the police and the secret service. In Italy there is a kind of agreement with many terrorist groups. During the 70s, after the assassination of prime minister Aldo Moro, we made an agreement. “You can stay here, but we are watching you.” He’s 50, and has been a policeman for 30 years.

Why a policeman?

‘When I was young, I loved to play with toy soldiers.’

After secondary school, and two attempts to study, first economics and then law, he thought it would be best to start working. At 40 he went back to the university and earned a Master’s in International Security.

First you started in the streets, then investigation. In Rome, Perugia and Bari. Why all over the country? Was it your choice?

‘No, they send you. You have to work where they want you to work. My experience in Bari was very important. North and south in Italy are very different. There is organised crime in both parts, but how they work and are treated is different. In the south the criminal organisation is a part of society, and that makes my work easier. In Florence for example, the north, you approach a person, an individual criminal.’

‘In the south you can approach a criminal using what is maybe a not completely professional approach. They allow you to use different tactics. In Milan, in the north, you have to be strict, stick to the book. If I catch you with 20 grams of cannabis, in Bari I cannot arrest you, but in Milan I can. There is not a different law, but there’s a difference in how it is applied… In Bari I can beat up a criminal because I want to; I can’t do that in Milan. But it’s not right… In the south of Italy, you risk your life, but criminals respect you, and in the north it is the other way around.’

Why do they respect you?

‘Because they know that you can chose a different approach…’

People regard the police as their enemies in Italy.

‘This is the attitude of many people.’

Why?

‘I remember when I was young, when I saw a policeman, first I respected him, and then I was afraid – even though I had done nothing wrong. But nowadays, these young kids say ‘fuck you’ to my face. But again, this wouldn’t happen in the south, because there I would hit the kid, right in front of everyone.’

Why?

‘They think of the police only when they have problems.’

But is it also because the police takes care of himself first?

‘No…’

Are the police trying to change that image?

‘Yes, especially the carabinieri. When I was the vice-commander of a station I spoke to shopkeepers, barmen, in a normal way. We are normal citizens among other citizens. You know, we have remained the same, but society has changed.’

How do you feel? Also European?

‘It’s difficult. To speak about Europe, I have to talk about Italy. We are different. In other countries many are proud of their countries. Not in Italy. When asked where they’re from, they’ll say from the north or the south, it is about your region. We’re not nationalistic.’

And when the Azzuri play?

‘That’s different! And to be European, you have to be Italian first…’