An average of nine people were killed per day at the hands of Brazil’s notoriously violent police force in 2015, an increase from last year despite a nationwide drop in murder rates.
In 2015, 3,345 people were allegedly killed during “police interventions” across Brazil, up 6.3 percent from the previous year’s count of 3,146. The statistics (pdf) come from the 10th Public Security Yearbook published by the Brazilian Forum on Public Security (Fórum Brasileiro de Segurança Pública).
In contrast, the number of civil and military police who died in “confrontations” tallied 393, down from 409 in 2014. The majority of such cases occurred when the security agents were off duty, while those killed during service amounted to 103 in 2015. (See InSight Crime’s graphic below)
The data shows that in 2015, 8.5 times more civilians were killed by police — including by agents who were off-duty — than the number of police officials who died in clashes.
Yet while police-related killings rose, the overall murder rate in Brazil dropped by a small margin of 1.2 percent, from 59,086 violent deaths in 2014 to 58,383 in 2015.
InSight Crime Analysis
Brazil’s police have long held the ill-gotten reputation of being among the most brutal institutions of its kind in the world. Its security agents came under scrutiny earlier this year when Rio de Janeiro hosted the Olympic Games. A bolstered security presence in the city was allegedly accompanied by greater police brutality, but did little to improve the safety situation in the long-term. According to a Human Rights Watch report, police killings in Rio state rose from 400 in 2013, to 645 in 2015.
Some security policies have worsened the problem. Rio’s eight-year-old “pacification” strategy, in which police forces occupy the city’s slums, has been criticized for excess violence and human rights abuses.
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Placing the recent figures into the global context reveals just how staggering Brazil’s numbers are: Last year, Brazilian police killed more people every seven days than UK police have killed in shootings over the past 26 years. In the most-affected Brazilian states, such as Amapá in the north and Rio de Janeiro in the southeast, the rate of police-related killings alone is higher than the overall murder rate of the United States (approximately 4.9 per 100,000).
In the North American country, where excessive use of force by security personnel has received a vast amount of attention in recent years, more than 1,100 people were reportedly killed by police in 2015. The United States’ population is 55 percent larger than Brazil’s.