After opening the boxes, many of the officers refused to wear the “inappropriate” masks, prompting Stefano Paolini, the chief of a police union, to write a letter to the head of police at the interior ministry, Lamberto Giannini.
“We ask you to take immediate action to ensure that the police carry out their duty wearing masks of a colour (white, blue or black) which is consistent with the uniform of the state police,” he wrote.
In a subsequent statement, Paolini said the problem did not arise because of prejudice against the colour pink, “but from the fact that the uniform is regulated”.
The masks were sent to police units in Bologna, Pavia, Varese, Ferrara, Venice and Syracuse.
Police units in six cities were sent the FFP2 masks from the office of Italy’s Covid-19 emergency commissioner, Francesco Paolo Figliuolo.
Paolini wrote that the decision to approve the purchase of pink masks for the police force was puzzling. He claimed the colour was “eccentric” in respect to police uniform and risked jeopardising the image of the institution.
“On the basis of the oath made, the uniform must be worn with decorum,” he added, while stressing that “during a period of rising aversion towards the police, it’s necessary to adopt sobriety and respect”.
Corriere della Sera reported that the face masks were among a batch also sent to staff at other public institutions, including schools, hospitals and the civil protection office.
In late December, Italy reintroduced the requirement for face masks to be worn outside amid a surge in coronavirus infections driven by the Omicron variant. It was already obligatory to wear masks in enclosed public spaces, including on public transport.