A former commander in Brazil’s UPP police unit was arrested on drug trafficking charges in Rio de Janeiro, the latest allegation of corruption to dog the highly praised force.
According to O Globo, the former head of Rio’s Pacifying Police Unit (Unidade de Policia Pacificadora – UPP), based in the San Carlos favela, was among the 11 people arrested by anti-narcotics police on Thursday. A member of the military police was also among those arrested.
Authorities told O Globo that as of November 2011, the UPP captain was no longer part of the force. He is charged with accepting about 15,000 Brazilian reais (about $8,675) each week in bribes from a local drug trafficker.
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On one hand, the arrest is a sign that authorities are continuing to root out corrupt elements in the UPP. The elite police force has been presented as a successful community policing model deployed across Rio de Janeiro’s favelas.
But the program has shown cracks. The city’s police force, including many UPP officers, temporarily threatened to strike just before Carnaval celebrations, complaining they were forced to work up to 70 hours a week for low salaries. The strike was called off after Rio’s state assembly approved a 13 percent salary raise, which was only about half what the police officers demanded. The low salaries help explain why some corrupt officers may opt to accept bribes from criminals.
Rio de Janeiro currently has 19 UPP units deployed across the city.