Brazil: The violence and inefficiency of a failed police system / Jordana Timerman

An in-depth piece by Folha de São Paulo examines why Brazil’s police forces give poor service, kill too often, ignore human rights and fail to obtain citizen trust. With few exceptions, according to the piece, racism and corruption are institutionalized and laws and regulations are flouted.

And the stakes are high. Brazil is in the midst of a homicide epidemic: 54.269 people were killed in 2013, which translates to 26.9 per 100,000 inhabitants.

Public forces killed 2,212 people in 2013, according to the Anuário Brasileiro de Segurança Pública. That translates to six people per day, or one person for every 100,000 in Brazil. In the same period of time, according to the piece, US police forces killed 429 people and UK and Japanese police killed none. And the numbers for 2014 are set to rise significantly: it’s estimated that Sao Paulo police doubled their death rates while Rio de Janeiro’s rose by about 40 percent compared to 2013. Defenders of police forces point to the extremely violent context they find themselves in: 490 cops were killed in 2013.

Brazilians listed public security as their second most important concern last year, though a committee of experts commissioned by the Ministry of Justice emphasized this has not translated to a profound public debate on how to resolve the situation.

The piece examines several proposals of reform for the criticized police forces. One proposal, which gained popularity after the violent response to 2013 protests, aims at the demilitarization of the police forces. A reform in this vein would create a new police force, eliminating the current division between military and civil police forces.

Others aim at improving perverse institutional incentives faced by security forces, including increasing funding, creating better career growth, improving training and incorporating civil society oversight.

Citizens have disparate reactions to the escalation of police violence. A recent revelation of how two cops summarily executed one teen – told by a second teen who his faked death when shot by the police on the outskirts of Tijuca – generated outrage, but also a high level of congratulatory e-mails to the Secretary of Public Security of Rio de Janeiro. SEE MORE…

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