ROME – A high-ranking Italian official yesterday accepted Mayor Frank L. Rizzo's enthusiastic offer to have 10 Italian police officers come to Philadelphia to study police work.
The offer came in a discussion with Italian Senate President Amintore Fanfani on the subject of street crime and terrorism in Italy.
With a pounding gesture of his fist, the major said the way to treat criminals was "'spacco il capo.' That's what we say in Italy. That's Calabrese (the dialect spoke in the mayor's ancestral home region). Spacco il capo."
The phrase, freely translated, means "break their heads."
Rizzo did not start the discussion of police tactics. Fanfani did. But once the subject was raised, the mayor warmed to the occasion.
"If you need some help," Rizzo told Fanfani, "we'll transport some guys over here and they'll straighten them out right away."
Fanfani showed great interest.
"You tell him, Your Eminence," Rizzo said to John Cardinal Krol, who served as translator, "that if they would fly 10 English-speaking policemen to Philadelphia, we'll show them how to eat those guys up."
Fanfani accepted immediately and summoned the nation's interior minister to make formal arrangements. The 10 officers are to be part of the next class at the police academy if possible, Anthony Zecca, the mayor's aide, said later.
Rizzo met the Italian politician and his wife, Maria Pia, at a private luncheon in the Fanfani's posh penthouse apartment, which overlooks the city. Among the other dignitaries attending were Cardinal Krol and Onofrio Solari-Bozzi, the Italian consul in Philadelphia.
Fanfani apologized for arriving 20 minutes late for the luncheon, explaining that he had been delayed by a debate on proposals for dealing with street violence caused by radical students and the Red Brigade – a group of leftist terrorist gangs who form of protest has been to shoot political and intellectual figures of the Establishment in the knees.
Such conduct, Rizzo said, would never be tolerated Philadelphia.
Rizzo turned to Cardinal Krol and said, "Respectfully, Your Eminence, you tell him that what they do here, those students and all, they'd never get away with it in my city, never. We'd grind 'em up, grind 'em up."
Rizzo then made his offer to train the Italian police. Fanfani pondered the offer and asked how long the training would take. About three weeks, Rizzo replied.
At that, Fanfani accepted, rose from his couch and rushed to a telephone to order that the arrangements be made.
While he was absent, the mayor continued to warm to his subject, standing up and gesticulating enthusiastically with his arms.
"Tell him also this: Send some of his finest investigators and we'll teach them how to catch kidnapers," Rizzo said.
Then, pointing to Solari-Bozzi, the Italian consul, he continued, "You know, Your Eminence (Cardinal Krol), they stole his watch in Philadelphia. They burglarized his apartment. It was a very expensive watch, and we got it back for him in 18 days. You know, they don't catch kidnapers here, Your Eminence. They do all right . . . But they don't apprehend anybody."
Fanfani, who had returned and caught up with the conversation, asked whether the Philadelphia Police Department's techniques endangered kidnap victims.
"Absolutely not," Rizzo said. "No way. We never miss them in our city. We'll give them the $10 million (ransom) and when they go to pick it up, they're dead – we nail them.
"This is where we get them, when they pick up the money. You gotta know how to do it. You can't stand on the corner with your (police) car. We use cameras to identify them. We might get them a day later, but they don't get away with it."
Rizzo said that kidnapings had become more common in the United States since the virtual elimination of capital punishment.