HomeNewsBrazil Case Illustrates Struggle With Corrupt Police

Brazil Case Illustrates Struggle With Corrupt Police


Dozens of police officers and over 100 alleged drug traffickers have been arrested over six years in northeast Brazil, spreading fears that security forces are colluding with criminals in increasingly complex ways across the country.

On February 2, 17 members of the military police and 14 suspected drug traffickers were detained in the state of Ceará during the latest round of Operation Genesis, an ongoing security operation aiming to dismantle corruption within the police.

The detained officers were allegedly bribed by a drug trafficking gang for "privileged information" on their criminal rivals, allowing the gang to dominate the drug trade in parts of Ceará's state capital, Fortaleza, as well as in the municipalities of Caucaia, Pacatuba, and Maranguape, according to a press release by the Ceará Attorney General's Office. The officers also sold weapons and ammunition that they had seized from criminals, the press release stated.

The number of arrested police has piled up since Operation Genesis began in 2016. At least 63 military police officers have faced charges of drug trafficking, robbery, weapons trafficking, and criminal association.

In parallel, 120 police officers, prison guards, and firefighters have been fired in Ceará on suspicion of various criminal and administrative charges.

In November 2022, a three-part podcast, "Maçãs Podres" (Rotten Apples), by Brazil's regional newspaper, Diario do Nordeste, detailed how deep these connections run. In the podcast, the newspaper explained that specialized squads of complicit police officers and prison guards form corrupt relationships with criminal groups inside prison and on the streets.

SEE ALSO: Why is Brazil’s Highway Police Suddenly Killing So Many People?

The spread of police involvement has been a significant security concern for Brazil in recent years, especially in Rio de Janeiro, where "militias" -- criminal groups made up of active and retired police and prison guards -- dominate criminal economies in much of the city. Members of these militia groups have also been connected to high-profile assassinations, including that of Rio Councilwoman Marielle Franco, in 2018.

"Criminal groups within police forces across Brazil have grown, [and] many cases have been identified in states such as Pará, Amazonas, Mato Grosso do Sul, and Ceará," said Bruno Paes Manso, an expert on Brazilian organized crime dynamics at the University of São Paulo's Center for the Study of Violence (Núcleo de Estudos da Violência – NEV).

InSight Crime Analysis

Police networks in Ceará do act in some ways similar to Rio de Janeiro's militias, but they do not yet have anywhere near the same level of influence or power. They remain largely service providers to existing criminal groups, as opposed to dominant players themselves.

Rio's militias grow wealthy through territorial control and are often in charge of almost all public services within specific neighborhoods. In poorer communities of Rio, they have control over real estate; the delivery of electricity, gas, and internet; and the assignment of parking spaces. They also extort some businesses a "protection" fee, which can be a blanket permission to stay open later.

SEE ALSO: Rage, Rinse, Repeat - The Futile Cycle of Anger at Rio's Police

In contrast, Ceará's police offered specific services to criminal clients, irrespective of territory.  

"The police involved in organized crime in Ceará are not so territorial, they carry out extortion or murder-for-hire," said Ricardo Moura, a public security journalist with O Povo, a newspaper in Fortaleza.

However, both types of involvement have sent the number of homicides attributed to police soaring, according to the experts.

"When police are ready to kill, it gives them an advantage in the criminal landscape. They become very strong criminal figures as they have carte blanche to kill and grow rich," said Paes Manso.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.


What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.


Related Content

BRAZIL / 29 JUN 2023

Acts of violence directly targeting government officials are more common in Mexico and Brazil than in other parts of the…

BRAZIL / 8 SEP 2022

Brazil's largest gang, the PCC, could be trying to take over the marijuana business in neighboring Paraguay.

BRAZIL / 8 AUG 2023

Legal protections for the Amazon rainforest are complicated by different domestic laws and competing interests across countries.

About InSight Crime


InSight Crime Contributes Expertise Across the Board 

22 SEP 2023

This week InSight Crime investigators Sara García and María Fernanda Ramírez led a discussion of the challenges posed by Colombian President Gustavo Petro’s “Total Peace” plan within urban contexts. The…


InSight Crime Cited in New Colombia Drug Policy Plan

15 SEP 2023

InSight Crime’s work on emerging coca cultivation in Honduras, Guatemala, and Venezuela was cited in the Colombian government’s…


InSight Crime Discusses Honduran Women's Prison Investigation

8 SEP 2023

Investigators Victoria Dittmar and María Fernanda Ramírez discussed InSight Crime’s recent investigation of a massacre in Honduras’ only women’s prison in a Twitter Spaces event on…


Human Trafficking Investigation Published in Leading Mexican Newspaper

1 SEP 2023

Leading Mexican media outlet El Universal featured our most recent investigation, “The Geography of Human Trafficking on the US-Mexico Border,” on the front page of its August 30…


InSight Crime's Coverage of Ecuador Leads International Debate

25 AUG 2023

This week, Jeremy McDermott, co-director of InSight Crime, was interviewed by La Sexta, a Spanish television channel, about the situation of extreme violence and insecurity in Ecuador…