HomeNewsBriefKillings by Police in Rio de Janeiro Highlight Training, Oversight Flaws
BRIEF

Killings by Police in Rio de Janeiro Highlight Training, Oversight Flaws

BRAZIL / 4 APR 2017 BY LEONARDO GOI EN

New statistics show that police in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil continue to use lethal force at high rates, a dynamic that is likely the result of poor training and widespread impunity for abuses by security forces.

Brazil's Institute for Public Security (Instituto de Segurança Pública - ISP) reported that police forces in the state of Rio de Janeiro killed 84 people in February 2017, a 71 percent increase compared to the same month last year, when ISP registered 49 killings. (See InSight Crime's chart below)

The increase is part of an ongoing trend. Killings by police have generally increased over the past several months, reaching a peak of 105 in December 2016 -- a staggering figure considering only 28 killings were reported for the same month a year before.

Since March 2016, according to the ISP's data, the monthly number of killings by police has always exceeded the figure registered for the same period the previous year.

To be sure, the number of incidents of use of deadly force has slightly decreased in the past three months, dropping from 105 in December 2016 to 84 in February 2017, but killings by police continue to be a concern across the state.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Police Reform

Advocacy groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have found evidence that killings by police in the city of Rio de Janeiro have often been illegal, as security forces shot unarmed or wounded suspects.

But police authorities counter that the use of deadly force has increased as a result of the deterioration of the security situation across the state.

"Police officers must flip a switch in their heads, at times acting as defenders of rights and other times as warriors, because there's a real war," Ivan Blaz, a spokesperson for Rio's military police, told O Globo.

The number of civilians killed by police far outstrips the number of police killed by civilians. While at least 140 people have been killed by Rio police so far this year, just 46 officers have lost their lives, on and off duty, according to Blaz.

In the latest incident of excessive police violence in Rio, a cellphone video shot during a gun battle between security forces and suspected members of a drug gang showed officers executing two men lying on the ground outside a school, the New York Times reported. A 13-year-old schoolgirl was also killed in the crossfire. The two officers have been arrested.

InSight Crime Analysis

The high number of killings by police in the state of Rio de Janeiro has been linked to poor police training practices and widespread impunity in cases of alleged abuses committed by security forces.

A 2014 study published by the Center of Applied Judicial Research (Centro de Pesquisa Jurídica Aplicada - CPJA), shed some light on the violence and bullying that police offers are often subjected to during training.

Of the 21,000 public security officers interviewed in the CPJA report, 39 percent stated they had suffered physical or psychological torture during training; and 64.4 percent said they had been disrespected or humiliated by their superiors.

SEE ALSO: Brazil News and Profiles

The findings are worrisome, as the violence police officers suffer from during training seems to influence how much force they will be ready to use when interacting with the general population.

"How am I going to serve society being trained like that? It's ridiculous," a former military policeman told Agência Publica in 2015. "Police have to learn quick thinking, the ability to make decisions. But right now they train police as they would a dog for a street fight.”

Other studies have linked the widespread use of lethal force by security agents to the impunity they enjoy in court. According to Amnesty International, police killings are normally classified as "resistance killings," in a way that places blame on the victims while generally absolving the officers responsible for their deaths. Of the 220 homicide investigations into police forces started in 2011 in the city of Rio, Amnesty reported that after four years, only one officer had been charged.

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.

DONATE

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.

DONATE

Related Content

BRAZIL / 19 MAR 2021

After Brazil's Supreme Court canceled the conviction of its former president, the country must now contend with the fallout.

ARGENTINA / 1 FEB 2022

In 2021, most countries in Latin America and the Caribbean experienced a marked increase in murders. Resurgent violence was to…

JALISCO CARTEL / 3 SEP 2021

Criminal groups in Mexico are posting in public lists of police they plan to kill, and the message often comes…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Escaping Barrio 18

27 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an investigation charting the story of Desafío, a 28-year-old Barrio 18 gang member who is desperate to escape gang life. But there’s one problem: he’s…

THE ORGANIZATION

Europe Coverage Makes a Splash

20 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an analysis of the role of Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport as an arrival hub for cocaine and methamphetamine from Mexico.  The article was picked up by…

THE ORGANIZATION

World Looks to InSight Crime for Mexico Expertise

13 JAN 2023

Our coverage of the arrest of Chapitos’ co-founder Ovidio Guzmán López in Mexico has received worldwide attention.In the UK, outlets including The Independent and BBC…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Shares Expertise with US State Department

16 DEC 2022

Last week, InSight Crime Co-founder Steven Dudley took part in the International Anti-Corruption Conference organized by the US State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, & Labor and…

THE ORGANIZATION

Immediate Response to US-Mexico Marijuana Investigation

9 DEC 2022

InSight Crime’s investigation into how the legalization of marijuana in many US states has changed Mexico’s criminal dynamics made a splash this week appearing on the front page of…