With the recent discussions about police brutality and murder raging in the United States, I was shocked to discover that, in my home country, cops can actually get sent to prison for causing the death of a citizen. Reading further into the article about it (in Italian), I was even more surprised by the details of this precise case.
In 2014, a man named Riccardo Magherini was found wandering around in Florence. He was agitated, in the midst of a panic attack. When he was accosted by the Carabinieri, they forcefully threw him to the ground and handcuffed him as he was screaming. They held him on the ground and, when he started to have difficulty breathing, an ambulance was called but they were not able to save him. It was later determined that he also had a significant amount of cocaine in his system and that, combined with his treatment at the hands of the cops, caused cardiac arrest. Protests about his death began in Florence, the family demanded justice and hired a lawyer to pursue it.
Now, three of the four cops present have been sentenced to 7-8 months in jail, for what roughly translates to a negligent homicide charge. The judge determined that, once handcuffed, they should not have continued to hold the man to the ground, and that they unnecessarily exacerbated his condition by putting pressure on his chest and thus restricting his breathing. They bore partial responsibility for his death in doing this, and thus they will now go to prison.
He was not shot, he was high on cocaine and agitated, but the cops still went to jail. As well they should, in my opinion, but when one is immersed in the current news coming out of the US, I almost can’t believe that these cops were even prosecuted at all.
Furthermore, Italians are outraged at the sentence, saying it is far too light and that a uniform allows the Carabinieri to commit murder with just a slap on the wrist. Given my current awareness of how cops around the world are treated by the justice system, I don’t even know how to comment on it. Maybe it is too light. Maybe it’s depressing that I can be relieved that this amount of justice was meted out in this case, because it at least means that there is some accountability going on.
I just don’t know anymore. The only thing I can say for certain is somethings gotta give. Civilized societies cannot continue to progress with an ever growing (and evermore justified) fear and hatred of government and those who enforce the law.