ROME – When Inspector Luca Sita retrieved two new N95 masks from his police station in Ferrara, central Italy on Thursday, he was dumped for a buckle: one mask was white and the other was pink.
Mr. Sita works in civilian clothes, so he was more perplexed than upset, but immediately thought of his colleagues who worked in the streets and in patrol cars who had to intervene in various situations, including making arrests.
“Institutionally,” he said, wearing a pink mask “is a bad look”.
The pink in itself was not offensive, he said: A mask of any color other than white, black or blue, which matches the national police uniform, would have been equally unacceptable.
“Green, orange – any bright color would have been unbearable,” he said.
The Sindacato Autonomo di Polizia, a trade union, immediately sent a letter to Lamberto Giannini, Italian police chief, expressing his “perplexity” that pink N95 masks had been sent to a few police stations in various regions.
The letter cited a 2019 memo from the then police chief urging officers to “avoid wearing non-conforming clothing which could affect the decorum of the institution.”
The police “must give an appearance of authority and efficiency, which is why we saw fit to raise the issue,” Stefano Paoloni, general secretary of the union, said in a telephone interview.
“It’s not a prejudice against color,” he added, but rather a matter of decorum.
Italians took to social media to joke about pink panthers, gift horses and fragile masculinity.
As of Friday, it was still not clear where the masks came from. The Home Office, which oversees state police, declined to comment.
The coronavirus emergency department, which supplies and distributes medical and personal protective devices, declined to comment.
“I hope that after raising our concerns there will be an attempt to distribute more subdued colors,” Paoloni said.
Teresa Bellanova, Deputy Minister of Infrastructure, said on twitter that she saw nothing wrong with officers wearing colorful masks. “Respect for uniforms is not given by the colors,” she said, “but by the way the men and women who wear these uniforms behave and work.”