Towards the end of our first full day in Salvador, our group witnessed a police officer forcefully point his handgun at a young male. We watched the event unfold during a stop light, we were behind the glass of our van. All of our eyes were fixated on the right side window. The young man’s eyes widened as the policeman swiftly aimed his weapon. The policeman walked to the stunned young male, while still aiming his gun at his chest, and pushed him against the nearest wall. Before we could comprehend what was developing before our eyes, the stoplight flashed green and we moved passed. The moment was abrupt and short-lived, nevertheless, the aggression displayed by the police officer made me further question the severity of Brazil’s police violence.
Brazil’s police forces contribute to a devastating amount of citizen deaths annually, and that number has been quickly growing. A report by the Human Rights Watch examined the rise of civilian deaths by police throughout the past couple of years. The Human Rights Watch stated, “Police officers, including off-duty officers, killed 3,345 people in 2015. This represents a 6 percent increase over 2014 and a 52 percent increase over 2013.” Recent years show a noticeable rise in civilian deaths by the police. When compared with the United States, Brazilian police forces have a statistically larger problem with police violence.
Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, the two largest cities in Brazil, are the most acknowledged cities in regards to the prevalence of police brutality. Alfred Montero, Political Science professor at Carleton College, comments on the Brazilian police homicidal demographics in his book “Brazilian Politics: Reforming a Democratic State in a Changing World.” Montero states, “Other statistics for Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo estimate that the police contribute to over 10 percent of the homicide rates in those cities, a figure that is more than double the rate of the most violent US cities” (Montero, 48). The amount of police homicides that occur in Brazil’s most violent cities are exceedingly larger than that of the United States’ cities. Montero further expands on the differences between US and Brazil by stating, “The lethality rate is also much higher than the US, indicating that when the Brazilian police shoot they do so to kill” (Montero, 48). The heightened lethality rate within Brazilian cities has been caused by detrimental police force policies. For example, Rio de Janeiro police have been viewed as having a ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ strategy.
A report by Amnesty International recovered stories from Favela residents who have lost loved ones due to unexpected police raids. In one instance, Rio de Janeiro's police force stormed the Acari Favela with 200 officers. During the police raid, many local inhabitants of the favela commented on the actions of the police. The residents stated that the officers “came into Acari shooting” (44). Pedro Ivo, an innocent local resident of the Acari Favela, unexpectedly died after being struck by a police officer’s bullet during the raid. All surrounding residents are in danger when police violence escalates that the extent of immediately opening fire. The actions of Brazil’s police institutions have further reinforced the antagonistic behavior exhibited by the police officer that our group briefly saw the other day.
Montero, Alfred P. Brazilian Politics: Reforming a Democratic State in a Changing World. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2005. Print.
Amnesty International. “You Killed My Son: Homicides By Military Police In The City Of Rio De Janeiro.” Rio De Janeiro/RJ: Anistia Internacional Brasil, 2015. Web.
“Brazil.” Human Rights Watch. 350 Fifth Avenue, 34th Floor | New York, NY. 12 Jan. 2017. Web.