The Carabinieri (//, also US: /-/, Italian: [karabiˈnjɛːri]; formally Arma dei Carabinieri, "Carabineers Force"; previously Corpo dei Carabinieri Reali, "Royal Carabineers Corps") are the national gendarmerie of Italy who primarily carry out domestic policing duties. It is one of Italy's main law enforcement agencies, alongside the Polizia di Stato and the Guardia di Finanza. As with the Guardia di Finanza but in contrast to the Polizia di Stato, the Carabinieri are a military force. As the fourth branch of the Italian Armed Forces, they come under the authority of the Ministry of Defence. In practice, there is a significant overlap between the jurisdiction of the Polizia di Stato and Carabinieri, who are contacted on separate emergency telephone numbers. Unlike the Polizia di Stato, the Carabinieri have responsibility for policing the military, and a number of members regularly participate in military missions abroad.
|Arma dei Carabinieri|
Heraldic symbol of the Carabinieri
|Active||13 July 1814|
|Role||Military police and general expertise in permanent service of public security; Armed force|
|Part of||Ministry of Defence|
|Motto(s)||Nei Secoli Fedele|
(Faithful throughout the centuries)
|March||La Fedelissima (The Ever Faithful)|
by Luigi Cirenei
|Anniversaries||June 5, Carabinieri Day|
|Minister of Defence||Lorenzo Guerini|
|Commanding General||Giovanni Nistri|
They were originally founded as the police force of the Kingdom of Sardinia, the forerunner of the Kingdom of Italy. During the process of Italian unification, the Carabinieri were appointed as the "First Force" of the new national military organisation. Although the Carabinieri assisted in the suppression of opposition during the rule of Benito Mussolini, they were also responsible for his downfall and many units were disbanded during World War II by Nazi Germany, which resulted in large numbers of Carabinieri joining the Italian resistance movement.
In 2001, they were separated from the Army to become a separate branch of the Italian Armed Forces. Carabinieri have policing powers that can be exercised at any time and in any part of the country, and they are always permitted to carry their assigned weapon as personal equipment (Beretta 92FS pistols).
The Carabinieri are often referred to as "La Benemerita" (The Reputable or The Meritorious) as they are a trusted and prestigious law enforcement institution in Italy. The first official account of the use of this term to refer to the Carabinieri dates back to June 24, 1864.
Inspired by the French Gendarmerie, the corps was created by King Victor Emmanuel I of Savoy with the aim of providing the Kingdom of Sardinia with a police corps. Previously, police duties were managed by the Dragoni di Sardegna Corps, created in 1726 and composed of volunteers. After French soldiers had occupied Turin at the end of the 18th century and later abandoned it to the Kingdom of Piedmont, the Royal Carabinieri Corps was instituted under the Royal Patents of 13 July 1814.
The new force was divided into divisions on the scale of one division for each province. The divisions were further divided into companies and subdivided into lieutenancies, which commanded and coordinated the local police stations and were distributed throughout the national territory in direct contact with the public.
In 1868, the Corazzieri (mounted division) was formed – initially as an escort of honour for the sovereign, and since 1946 for the President of the Republic. The Italian unification saw the number of divisions increased, and on 24 January 1861 the Carabinieri were appointed the "First Force" of the new national military organization.
In May 1915 Italian troops marched to encompass South Tyrol, territory of their former allies the Austro-Hungarian empire, in the Fronte italiano campaign. The defenders had sufficient time to prepare strong fortifications there, and in the Carso theatre to the east, and the Italian regiments, under overall command of General Cadorna, found themselves repeatedly repulsed in harsh fighting. The role of the Carabinieri was to act as barrier troops, setting up machine gun posts to control the rear of the attacking regiments and prevent desertion.
1930s and 1940s
During the fascist regime of Benito Mussolini (1922–1943), the Carabinieri were one of the police forces entrusted with suppressing opposition in Italy. During the same period, while part of the Italian African Police (mainly in the late 1930s), they were involved in atrocities in colonial Italian East Africa during the Second Italo-Abyssinian War. During World War II they fought in their function as military police against the Allied forces, and against Yugoslav partisans as part of the Italian occupation force in Yugoslavia.
After Mussolini was voted out of office on 25 July 1943, on the orders of the king he was arrested by the Carabinieri as he left the king's private residence in Rome and subsequently imprisoned on Campo Imperatore by Carabinieri forces. After the armistice between Italy and the Allies on 3 September 1943 and the country's split into the fascist Italian Social Republic in the north and the Kingdom of Italy in the south, the Carabinieri split into two groups. In southern Italy the Carabinieri Command for Liberated Italy was founded in Bari, mobilizing new units for the Italian war of liberation. These units were attached to the Italian Liberation Corps and the six Italian Combat Groups of the Italian Co-Belligerent Army, fighting with the Allied forces. In northern Italy the fascist regime organized the Guardia Nazionale Repubblicana (composed of Carabinieri, former colonial policemen, Guardia di Finanza and customs police), to employ it as a military police and rapid-deployment anti-guerilla force. GNR was later joined (but not taken over) by the Black Brigades which represented a new militant incarnation of the Fascist party.
Due to the role the Carabinieri had played in the downfall of Mussolini, and since one of the few units which fought the German occupation of Rome were the Granatieri di Sardegna regiments and the II Carabinieri cadet battalion, the Germans did not view the Carabinieri as loyal to the fascist cause, They disarmed the force and began the deportation of 8,000 officers to Germany for forced labour on 6 October 1943; the Italian Colonial Police took over their jobs.
Subsequently, large numbers of Carabinieri joined the Italian resistance movement to fight German and Italian fascists. Nonetheless, some 45,000 officers remained on the job and as of March 1944, this group was the only national security force in Italy.
After the war the Carabinieri counted at least 2,735 fallen and 6,500 wounded, out of approximately 14,000 who had joined the Resistance in northern and central Italy. In Yugoslavia the Carabinieri formed a battalion of the Italian partisan Garibaldi Division, which fought alongside the Yugoslav partisans against German and Croatian Ustaše Forces. The battalion lost over 80% of its members in combat and was awarded the Silver Medal of Military Valor to commemorate the fallen.
One notable act of heroism in this era came from Vice Brigadiere Salvo D'Acquisto, who was executed by the Germans in Palidoro (near Rome) during World War II. D'Acquisto exchanged his life for the lives of citizens due to be executed in retaliation for the killing of a German soldier; instead, he claimed responsibility and was executed for the offence.
Until 2000, the Carabinieri were part of the Italian Army. On 31 March 2000, they were separated to become the fourth branch of the Italian Armed Forces. Interpol summarizes this force (part of the Ministry of Defence) as having a "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."
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". Europol also states that the force is "supplemented by the Specialized Carabinieri Commands, responsible for safeguarding the primary interests of the community: from the protection of the environment, health, work and national cultural heritage, to the observance of community and agri-food regulations, to the suppression of forgery [of] currency".
In recent years Carabinieri units have been dispatched on peacekeeping missions, including Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq. In 2003, 12 Carabinieri were killed in a suicide bombing on their base in Nasiriyah, near Basra in southern Iraq, in the largest Italian military loss of life in a single action since the Second World War. Recent projects (as of April 2018) include training and assisting the Afghan National Security Forces, the Afghan National Police, and the Afghan National Civil Order Police. In Iraq, Carabinieri have trained 13,000 police officers; during the ISIS destruction of historic sites, Italy dispatched troops from the Carabinieri’s Command to protect cultural heritage.
At the Sea Island Conference of the G8 in 2004, Carabinieri were given a mandate to establish a Centre of Excellence for Stability Police Units to spearhead the development of training and doctrinal standards for civilian police units attached to international peacekeeping missions.
The State Forestry Corps was dissolved on 31 December 2016 and personnel with forestry police function were militarized and absorbed by the Carabinieri.
The corps is headed by the Comando, consisting of the Comandante Generale (a General), the Vice-Comandante Generale ( a Lieutenant General) and the Chief of Staff, all located in Rome. The Chief of Staff directs, coordinates and supervises all activities of the force. It directly supervises the Directors of Administration, Health, Engineering, the motor pool and the Veterinary Commission. On the Deputy Chiefs of Staff depend the National Center for Recruitment and Selection, the Administration National Center and the Legislation Office.
The Carabinieri are organised on a territorial basis for law-enforcement missions. The territorial organization represents the core of the institution; it contains 80 percent of the force and is organized hierarchically in five inter-regional commands, 19 regional commands and 102 provincial commands, 504 Company Commands and 4,672 Station Commands and lieutenancies.
The territorial organization includes three heliborne units:
- Carabinieri Heliborne Squadron "Cacciatori di Calabria", responsible for operations in Calabria
- Carabinieri Heliborne Squadron "Cacciatori di Sicilia", responsible for operations on Sicily
- Carabinieri Heliborne Squadron "Cacciatori di Sardegna", responsible for operations on Sardinia
Specialist and Mobile Units Command Organization
Outside the territorial organisation, the Specialist and Mobile Units Command Palidoro (Comando delle Unità Mobili e Specializzate "Palidoro", based in Rome) controls the Carabinieri Mobile Units Division, the Carabinieri Specialist Units Division and the ROS.
Carabinieri Specialist Units Division
The Carabinieri Specialist Units Division is the Carabinieri formation, established in 2001, dedicated to the performance of specialist police activities and the support to the Territorial Organizations. The Division directs, controls, and coordinates its own units, which carry out tasks related to the protection of Italian artistic heritage, to the currency protection, to the protection of Italian embassies abroad, to the health protection, to the labour policing, to Bank of Italy needs, to the Carabinieri forensics police services. In addition, the Division provides Carabinieri air support.
Mobile Units Division
The Carabinieri Mobile Units Division is located in Rome and has two brigades tasked with mass manoeuvres during emergencies, defending the nation and participating in military operations abroad. It supports public order and territorial control in urban areas, and contributes to the operations of civil authorities in terms of public safety. 1st Mobile Brigade, whose headquarter is located in Rome and includes six Regiments and four Battalions mainly employed in public order tasks. 2nd Mobile Brigade headquartered in Livorno includes the Gruppo di Intervento Speciale special forces group, the 1st Paratroopers Carabinieri Regiment "Tuscania", and the 7th "Trentino-Alto Adige" and 13th "Friuli-Venezia Giulia" regiments, which, together with the Multinational Specialized Unit, are mainly engaged in international missions.
The ROS (Raggruppamento Operativo Speciale or Special Operational Group) is an elite unit founded in 1990 to deal with organised crime (Mafia and others), subversive activities, terrorism and more complex types of crime. An anti-crime section is found in every city and district public prosecutor's office.
Special Tasks Departments
Special Tasks Departments are outside the ordinary organisational framework and are used for special missions: Corazzieri (Cuirassiers) are an elite corps and honour guard of the President of the Italian Republic, located in the Quirinal Palace. They are distinguished by their uniforms and height (the minimum height for admission is 1.9 m or 6 ft 3 in). They have almost no other everyday duties, although they may be seen patrolling occasionally. Other departments are in service to constitutional bodies such as the Presidency of the Republic, the Senate, Parliament, the Judiciary, the Prime Minister and the National Council of Economy and Labour. Carabinieri also perform military police and security duties for the Ministry of Defence, military high commands, the offices of the military judiciary and allied military organisations in Italy and abroad. They also have personnel attached to the Department of Public Security in various departments, as well as anti-Mafia and anti-drug investigative task forces. Carabinieri officers are charged with surveillance and security at Italian embassies and consulates abroad, performing the same services entrusted to the Marine Corps Embassy Security Group in United States diplomatic and consular offices.
Command Unit for environmental, agri-food and forestry protection
The specialized Comando unità per la tutela forestale, ambientale e agroalimentare has headquarter located in Rome and organized in 15 regional command and approximately 700 Station Commands on the territory. It counts 7,000 personnel involved in contrast of illicit agri-foodstuffs, environmental and biodiversity protection, contrast to poaching, contrast to all criminal organizations that, with their activity, affect the environment. In the Unit there are also 29 NOE (Nucleo Operativo Ecologico), nucleus highly specialized in complex investigations in environmental matters against organized crime.
The main battles in which the Carabinieri took part before World War I are:
- Grenoble, July 5, 1815 (baptism of fire)
- Battle of Pastrengo, 30 April 1848 – the Carabinieri Corps was awarded its first Silver Medal of Military Valor
- Battle of Santa Lucia, 6 May 1848 – the Carabinieri Corps was awarded its first Bronze Medal of Military Valor
- Battle of Custoza, 24–25 July 1848
- Battle of Custoza, 24 June 1866
- Capture of Rome, 20 September 1870 (together with the Bersaglieri)
For its contributions during the First World War, the Corps was awarded its first Gold Medal of Military Valor
- Battle of Klisoura on the Greek-Albanian front from 16 to 30 December 1940 Bronze Medal of Military Valor
- Battle at Cafe Struga on the Albanian-Yugoslav front on 18 April 1941
- Battle of Culqualber (Ethiopia), 6 August-21 November 1941 – Corps was awarded its second Gold Medal of Military Valor
From 1943 to 1945, the Carabinieri were accountable to the Control Commission of the Allied Military Government (AMGOT). Their reorganization and reform was organized by Colonel Arthur Young, a British police officer seconded as Director of Public Safety and Director of Security.
The Carabinieri were issued a distinctive uniform in black with silver braid around the collar and cuffs, edges trimmed in scarlet and epaulettes in silver. The mounted division had white fringes, and the infantry had light blue. Their headgear was a distinctive bicorne, popularly called the lucerna (in use only for historical uniform and ceremonies). They still use a version of the historic uniform today for ceremonies.
The full set of different Carabinieri uniforms today is presented here (in Italian).
Carabinieri MP Units wear a dark navy blue beret.
The State Color of the Carabinieri bears the following decorations:
- 6 Cavalier Crosses of the Military Order of Italy
- 3 Gold Medals of Military Valor
- 3 Gold Medals of Army Valor
- 5 Silver Medals of Military Valor
- 4 Bronze Medals of Military Valor
- 11 Gold Medals of Civil Valor
- 1 Silver Medal of Civil Valor
- 2 War Crosses of Military Valor
- 4 Gold Medals of Civil Merit
- 6 Gold Medals of Benemerited Public Security
- 6 Gold Medals of Benemerited Service to Education, Culture and the Arts
- 2 Gold Medals of Benemerited Service to the Environment
- 1 Gold Medal of Service in the Earthquake of 1909
- 1 Bronze Medal of Civil Defense Excellence 1st Class
In response to the many and diverse needs of the Carabinieri, the service provides for the use of various types of weapons that are divided into "ordinary" and "special" weapons and supplied to all staff as follows:
Used only by certain departments and under certain circumstances:
- Pistol: Beretta 93R
- Assault rifle: Beretta SC70/90
- Assault rifle: M4 carbine
- Submachine gun: Heckler & Koch MP5
- Submachine gun: Steyr TMP
- Shotgun: Franchi SPAS-15
- Sharpshooter: Mauser SP66, MSG-90
- Sniper rifle: Accuracy International AWM
- Machine gun: [[Rheinmetall MG 3|Beretta MG 42/59]
- Shotgun: Benelli M4 Super 90
- Air to Air Missile: Matra Super 530F(One seized in a raid, status currently unknown)
Vehicles and equipment
Until very recently the Italian police (including the Carabinieri) operated only Italian-made vehicles, but that changed with the introduction of Land Rover Defenders and Subarus into service. Normal Carabinieri patrol vehicles are dark blue with a white roof, with a red stripe along the side. Carabinieri license plates begin with "CC" or previously with "EI" (formerly Esercito Italiano, Italian Army), and a Carabinieri car is traditionally called a Gazzella (gazelle). Small or medium-sized cars are used for ordinary patrol work, with larger and more powerful vehicles being used for emergency response, highway patrol, and special services. The vehicles of the Carabinieri military police and mobile units are painted in NATO camouflage scheme as done with the other Italian Armed Forces vehicles.
- Alfa Romeo 159
- Alfa Romeo Giulia
- Alfa Romeo Giulia (952)
- Subaru Forester
- Lancia Kappa
- Land Rover Freelander
- Land Rover Defender-90 hard top
- Land Rover Discovery II e III e IV
- Lotus Evora S
- Fiat Bravo
- Fiat Stilo 1.9 JTD
- Fiat Ducato
- Hummer H1
- Fiat Grande Punto
- Jeep Renegade
- Jeep Grand Cherokee
- Mitsubishi Pajero
- Mitsubishi i-MiEV
- Isuzu D-Max
- Nissan Terrano II
- Renault Clio
- Iveco Daily
- SEAT León
- Suzuki Jimny
- Snowmobile Polaris
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