Crime and Court news / Politics

What is an Italian “sheriff Mayor”

In Italy, a country which was once made of city-states, the role of the Municipal Government and of its chief, the Mayor, is politically fundamental. Indeed the fascist regime replaced elected Mayors with appointed regents.

When an Italian city or town appears lawless, the Mayor will be blamed, despite the fact that nearly all the law enforcement agencies are run by the central Government. Yes, Municipalities have their own Police Corps, but they mainly handle traffic and administrative law matters.

No Mayor will answer: “It’s not my business, people! Go to the Chief of Police or to the Prefect!” Instead, the Mayor will promise to solve the problem, he will set up cameras in the streets or recruit new police officers. The role of the Mayor is recognized by the Italian usually centralist law, which allows him or her to enact “emergency orders”. This power is often exercised, sometimes in bizarre ways.

When a Mayor becomes particularly active in law enforcement, he is called “a sheriff”. The first sheriff was Mr Giancarlo Gentili, the Mayor of Treviso who removed the benches from public parts to deny their use to homeless people and illegal immigrants. More recently Mr Massimo Bitonci, the Mayor of Padua, enacted an order forbidding every adult to enter a public park unless he or she is with a child or a dog.

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