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Why some Rio residents yearn for an iron-fisted druglord

After the police occupation of a large Rio de Janeiro favela last year, there is a new spike in crime, the result of poor police coordination, says guest blogger Julia Michaels.

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A document produced by the Civil Police Intelligence Unit, dated February 15 of this year, is as succinct as it is shocking in its revelations. In the hands of the Rio Secretariat of Public Safety, which is investigating its contents, the dossier raises suspicions that once again, police are collaborating with criminals in exchange for a substantial “tip”. Item four of the ten-topic, two-page report, to which Veja had access, provides the probable sums. The “down payment” is said to be 200,000 reais (almost 120,000 dollars equivalent). And the monthly payments to military police, according to the document, come to 80,000 reais. In exchange for this, the police are said to be staying out of the alleyways, and keeping watch only over the larger byways that cut across the favela. 

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Tensions between Rio’s civil (intelligence) police and its military (patrolling) police are reportedly running high (in Portuguese), as one might imagine, given what Veja published.

As long ago as the 1990s, when anthropologist Luiz Eduardo Soares was in Beltrame’s job, during Governor Anthony Garotinho’s first term, it was clear that having more than one police force was problematic. In addition to the state-wide military and civil police forces, the city of Rio also has traffic police (CET), and a Municipal Guard. The state of Rio also has highway police and then there is Brazil’s FBI, the Federal Police. Oh, don’t forget the forest police (who have helped out with occupation (in Portuguese)).

In 2009, Beltrame created Integrated Public Safety Regions, or RISPs (in Portuguese), by way of the Portuguese acronym. These have been instrumental in bringing down crime, since the state is now divided up into regions in which civil and military police units are jointly responsible for crime reduction goals.

This year the military police force also instituted a new police academy curriculum, with a focus on reduced police corruption and violence.

Some security and police experts say the RISPs aren’t enough to foster true coordination, planning and evaluation – i.e. effective policing. They suggest more radical institutional change. What happens next in Rocinha may determine how necessary that is.

And Rocinha constitutes only one of several enormous territorial challenges facing security officials. In addition to the ongoing military police handover of Alemão, Complexo da Maré, Jacarezinho and Manguinhos are high on Beltrame’s to-do list.

– Julia Michaels, a long-time resident of Brazil, writes the blog Rio Real, which she describes as a constructive and critical view of Rio de Janeiro’s ongoing transformation.

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