VICENZA, Italy (Dec. 18, 2018) - The U.S. Army Garrison Italy Provost Marshal Office and Southern European Task Force Carabinieri have launched a new initiative of joint patrols with U.S. and Italian military police that highlights the partnership between both law enforcement agencies.
This collaboration began in early November and is scheduled to last for several months.
SETAF Carabinieri and Military Police work together to secure the routes, installations and housing areas in use by U.S. military in Vicenza. They agree that goal of this joint patrol initiative is prevention and deterrence. They hope to do that by creating a stronger presence and showing a close working partnership between American and Italian law enforcement personnel.
The project came about after several incidents downtown identified a need for more proactive measures, according to one law enforcement official here.
"The decision to undertake this initiative was driven by a number of incidents involving U.S. personnel that reflected negatively on the Vicenza Military Community and its relationship with the city of Vicenza," said Dennis Brown, law enforcement operations officer who is coordinating the effort for the Directorate of Emergency Services.
Each patrol has a Carabinieri and a Military Police vehicle with two law enforcement personnel. An interpreter adds to the four-officer team for ease of communication. Together they conduct random visits of some of the more popular pubs, bars and nightclubs in town. Joint patrols run from late evening into early hours of the morning, with a heavier focus on weekends.
Brown said the process for developing the methodology on which areas to focus on was based on historical data developed through a shared review of police records.
"The areas that were determined to be more frequented by U.S. personnel and that, historically, had resulted in negative incidents, became the focus of the patrols," he said. "By conducting these presence patrols in off-post establishments, we hope to influence personnel, especially younger Soldiers, to conduct themselves in a positive manner and to make good, safe decisions in regards to the actions they take.
"They are representatives of the United States. It is our goal through initiatives such as these to ease the strain on community relations and further strengthen our community partnership."
According to the Carabinieri, the reinforced American-Italian patrol unit is being well received among club owners and bouncers. The sheer presence of the Carabinieri and MP vehicles with blue lights on seems effective to immediately defuse tensions in and out of entertainment venues. The expectation is that it may also serve to tamp down potential alcohol-related aggressive behavior.
Carabinieri patrolling a club next to their American colleagues noted that the joint presence seems to make a difference thus far. They said young American service members are generally very respectful of Italian law and Italian law enforcement personnel. However, with the additional presence of an MP, they instinctively pay extra attention to abide by their codes of conduct, which makes them more disciplined and willing to cooperate.
"From a professional point of view, this initiative is very valid because we get to work Carabinieri and MPs shoulder to shoulder, and this hands-on pilot program helps us understand each one's operational approach and mentality," said Brown.
To date, there have been no issues with identification checks of clubbers.
Asked about their opinion on the joint patrol after showing IDs at a disco entrance, a pair of 20-year-old girls from Vicenza agreed that they feel safer inside knowing that MP and Carabineri hang around.
In addition to securing the premises of the trendiest clubs and discos in Vicenza, the coordinated patrol also aims to enhance mutual understanding and interoperability between Italian and American law enforcement units.
Given the unique relationship, strong teamwork is essential.
Carabinieri and MP agree that the value of joint patrol is important when it comes to interoperability. Joint patrols are key to refining standard operating procedures, as they get to know each other and learn to work together. They also serve to identify and address potential gaps to define best practices. Ultimately, Italian and American first responders share the same goal, which is achieving the best possible outcome in the event of a real joint operation.
Lt. Col. Michael S. Parsons, DES director, is enthusiastic of the initiative.
"We have a great working relationship alongside the Carabinieri here. Joint patrols are a win-win. I think the local community appreciates the contribution of the MP in law enforcement. At the same time, Soldiers have a better appreciation of the U.S. military presence at local night clubs, too," Parsons said.
"Not only do these joint patrols increase the relationship with both law enforcement agencies," he emphasized. "I believe that the initiative amplifies the great relationship that both Italy and the United States have maintained for many years now."
According to U.S. and Italian military police officials, both police forces would like to increase the frequency with which we are conducting joint patrolling, to make it a routine, as it used to be in the past. It would be useful for both the Italian and American military communities. A visible synergy between American and Italian law enforcement personnel would send a strong message that will be appreciated by all.
The organizations will reassess the pilot program after several months to determine the way ahead.