Date: Sat, 25 Oct 97 14:13:21 CDT
Subject: Brazil: Increase in police violence
Article: 20623

Study shows that awards increase police violence

SEJUP (Servico Brasileiro de Justica e Paz), News from Brazil, No. 291, 24 October 1997

The Jornal do Brasil of October 22 reports on a survey published on the previous day by the Superior Institute of Religious Studies (ISER) about police violence in Rio de Janeiro. The survey shows that the number of people killed by police doubled since the state government introduced a system which awards police with promotion and pay increases after they have killed or arrested criminals.

The 14 member ISER team coordinated by sociologist Ignacio Cano examined 1194 cases of assassination by police. In 1995 when the present State Secretary for Security, General Nilton Cerqueira, took command of the police 358 deaths were registered as compared to 220 during the previous year. In at least 42 of the cases of people killed by police, examinations showed that the victims died having been wounded by guns near their heads. A further 80 deaths indicated that the victims were probably executed. The number of people killed by the police in the city of Rio de Janeiro during 1995 is similar to the total number of people killed by police in the US in 1990. In 83% of all cases of assassination by police no non police witness testified as to the circumstances of the death.

Workers' Party (PT) state deputy, Carlos Minc, requested that an investigation be opened of the cases where evidence suggests that the police executed the victims. Currently a parliamentary inquiry on violence is in session in the state legislature and it is likely that members of the commission will request legislation to end the award system as well as the establishment of a witness protection program, re-training courses for police and insist that public prosecutors accompany cases where on-duty police have killed people. It is expected that the report of the commission will be ready in just over a week.

Meanwhile crime statistics in Sao Paulo have increased in recent months. The monthly average of robberies (8349) so far this year is the highest since 1984—last month a total of 9045 robberies or an average of 301 per day were registered. Commentators suggest that the number increased significantly after March when public reaction to police violence became more marked after scenes on TV showed military police maltreating suspects in Diadema in the Greater Sao Paulo area. In March the number of registered robberies were 7418. The September statistic represents an increase of 22% on this figure. The number of vehicles stolen increased by 15.3% during the same period. On the other hand the average monthly number of murders decreased by 13.3% over this period.