Rio's transformation needs new phase
A plan to train all 55,000 military and civil police officers by 2015, in time for the Olympics, is a step in the right direction, writes guest blogger Julia Michaels.
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“Police should know that shooting is the last thing to do. The first is exactly what most are still unaccustomed to doing: learning to listen, to engage in dialogue,” Juliana Barroso, state Undersecretary for Learning and Prevention Programs, told O Globo. Barroso moved to Rio from Brasília about six months ago, to evaluate Rio’s six police schools and oversee the new program.Skip to next paragraph
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If Secretary Beltrame has his way, last June’s alleged police shooting of an 11-year-old black boy in a favela alley will stand out as a turning point, instead of one more death in an endless stream of impunity. Last week, the military police force fired thirty soldiers accused of crimes ranging from conspiracy to torture and attempted homicide. Trials have been speeded up, with forty scheduled for this week; and the corp’s forward-looking commander general, philosopher and blogger Mário Sérgio Duarte, will have final say on the cases.
According to O Globo, over a thousand military and civil police officers have been fired for criminal activity since 2007, and the numbers of arrests are on the rise.
“This could produce a historic change in the military police, in the longer term,” says Silvia Ramos, an academic researcher who recently conducted a survey of pacification police. “[It could] turn the page in terms of a police force focused on war, on confrontation, belligerence, and the ideology of death to the lowlifes.”
Who or what will carry on?
How deep is deep enough, when it comes to pouring sturdy foundations in a city such as Rio de Janeiro, where the subsoil is sandy and full of underground rivers? Observers from a variety of areas have expressed concern to RioRealblog in the last several weeks, especially after Governor Sérgio Cabral’s botched handling of the firemen’s strike and the revelation of his conflicts of interest, by way of a helicopter crash. They worry that the transformation of Rio is built on personal relationships, so much more transitory than institution-based policy responsibility, design, implementation, monitoring, evaluation, and adjustment.
Julita Lemgruber, a former prison administrator and sociologist with a focus on public safety, recently criticized the effectiveness of Beltrame’s attempt to get the military and civil police – traditional competitors, the former as street cops, the lattter doing investigative work – to collaborate. RioRealblog asked her about the RISPs, geographical units of the city for which military and civil police have joint responsiblity to bring down crime. Beltrame has said that Rio’s public safety policy is equally based on the police pacification units and the RISPs.
“They don’t work,” Lemgruber said. “The military and civil police should be having weekly meetings, planning, evaluating. They aren’t doing it.”