A policeman patrolling a favela in Rio de Janeiro

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.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
Prev Next

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

The department of Nariño in southwest Colombia is the main coca-producing area in the country and in the world. It is a place scarred by poverty and years of armed conflict between guerrillas, the state and paramilitary groups. Perhaps nowhere else in the country are the challenges...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

  Life of a Sicario Anatomy of a Hit   The BACRIM's control over territories such as the north Colombian region of Bajo Cauca comes at the point of a gun, and death is a constant price of their power.

Trafficking Firearms Into Honduras

Trafficking Firearms Into Honduras

Honduras does not produce weapons,[1] but weapons are trafficked into the country in numerous ways. These vary depending on weapon availability in neighboring countries, demand in Honduras, government controls and other factors. They do not appear to obey a single strategic logic, other than that of evading...

Closing the Gaps on Firearms Trafficking in Honduras

Closing the Gaps on Firearms Trafficking in Honduras

As set out in this report, the legal structure around Honduras' arms trade is deeply flawed. The legislation is inconsistent and unclear as to the roles of different institutions, while the regulatory system is insufficiently funded, anachronistic and administered by officials who are overworked or susceptible to...

Counting Firearms in Honduras

Counting Firearms in Honduras

Estimates vary widely as to how many legal and illegal weapons are circulating in Honduras. There are many reasons for this. The government does not have a centralized database that tracks arms seizures, purchases, sales and other matters concerning arms possession, availability and merchandising. The laws surrounding...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

  The Bajo Cauca Franchise BACRIM-Land Armed Power Dynamics The BACRIM in places like the region of Bajo Cauca are a typical manifestation of Colombia's underworld today: a semi-autonomous local cell that is part of a powerful national network.

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Money

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Money

  Drugs Extortion Criminal Cash Flows Millions of dollars in dirty money circulate constantly around Bajo Cauca, flowing upwards and outwards from a broad range of criminal activities. The BACRIM are the chief regulators and beneficiaries of this shadow economy.

Venezuela Prisons: 'Pranes' and 'Revolutionary' Criminality

Venezuela Prisons: 'Pranes' and 'Revolutionary' Criminality

In May 2011, a 26-year-old prison gang leader held 4,000 members of the Venezuelan security forces, backed by tanks and helicopters, at bay for weeks. Humiliated nationally and internationally, it pushed President Hugo Chávez into a different and disastrous approach to the prison system.

Trafficking Firearms in Honduras

Trafficking Firearms in Honduras

The weapons trade within Honduras is difficult to monitor. This is largely because the military, the country's sole importer, and the Armory, the sole salesmen of weapons, do not release information to the public. The lack of transparency extends to private security companies, which do not have...