Note from BW of Brazil: During this whole Covid-19 pandemic with the media consistently focusing on the infections and deaths, whether they are actually caused by coronavirus or not, one has to ask if it is possible that there could be any good news coming out of this whole crisis. I’m sure there are other more optimistic or positive stories out there and I would count this one as one of them.
With the precautionary measures being taken in Rio, as in other cities around the world, there is less need for the city’s police to send out as many troops to continue its brutal tactics in providing public “security”.
Fewer bodies are being collected after having been shot down, either with intent to kill or accidentally, by Military Police squads. This is not to say that deaths have fallen 100%, but the percentage of the drop is so significant that one has to conclude that the police are a major contributor to death tolls in certain communities, specifically those inhabited mostly by black and poor people.
That’s my conclusion. I wonder what the Military Police would have to say about this.
During Covid-19 pandemic, police in Rio de Janeiro slow down operations and deaths in favela slums have fallen by 60%
By Arthur Stabile
A study the Observatory Network in Rio shows a link between operations and police lethality: “coronavirus forced the government to stop wholesale operations”
The beginning of social isolation caused by the coronavirus pandemic led to a drop in police operations and, consequently, a reduction in deaths caused by the armed branch of the State in Rio de Janeiro. A study by the Network of Security Observatories identified a decrease of 74% in actions and 60% in deaths.
There are two periods of analysis: from March 1 to the 15th, before the decree of state of emergency by Governor Wilson Witzel (PSC), and from 16 to the 30th, already with isolation and preventive actions to prevent the spread of the virus.
The current government has implemented the use of caveirões aéreos (airborne skulls), as helicopters are called, used as a firing platform in operations. It’s under Governor Witzel that snipers and killer drones emerge in routine actions, who identify suspicious people and are allowed to shoot. The security policy adopted in the state generated a complaint at the United Nations.
In the observed intervals, operations fell from 139 in the first half of the month to 56 by the end of March. Adding to the entire month, the number of deaths decreased when compared to March 2019: 15 deaths versus 36 from the same period last year.
The decrease contrasts with the policy adopted by Governor Witzel. Throughout 2019, in its first year in command of the state, the police doubled the number of actions and was responsible for one intentional homicide for every 3 registered in Rio. There are places where police killings have doubled, such as in Complexo da Maré.
According to Silvia Ramos, coordinator of the Observatory Network, the figures show a change in the state’s public security policy following Witzel’s action. The “big” actions were left aside, in which the police “greet with shots, come shooting and kill one or two people”.
“We have very strong evidence that the first impact of the pandemic on security policies was to stop this type of predominance of wholesale operations”, analyzes Silvia, explaining that the 15-day period is short for making future projections.
The specialist details that there are already records of large scale operations in this first week of April in locations with large populations, such as the Maré and Alemão complexes, in Rio’s Pedreira, Acari and Baixada Fluminense regions.
Silvia explains that, historically, this type of action, with a high contingent of police officers and the use of force at the expense of intelligence, has generated little success. “They push the groups more into the areas and have little effect of disarticulation”, he details.
“It’s too much shooting, too little intelligence, too little planning, and it has a very fragile effect. So much so that the police have to go back there next week, the week after, almost a vicious cycle,” continues the coordinator.
A warning is that police actions such as those that took place this week interfere in popular mobilization to combat the coronavirus pandemic and the impacts of isolation on families who have lost their income.
The Ponte website presented initiatives, some of them in Rio de Janeiro. There is mobilization in Complexo do Alemão, with the Coletivo Papo Reto, and in Maré, with Redes da Maré helping the most affected residents, whether due to lack of food or conditions for sanitation against Covid-19.
“It’s important to mention that we accompany community groups in many favelas mobilizing in campaigns. All the efforts are extremely hampered by police operations, which produce gunfire, restlessness, fear, uneasiness,” says Silvia.
For the expert, the moment calls for solutions and not more problems. “It’s important that the security area is not an additional problem in the pandemic related to fear, panic, the injured and the dead,” he explains. “Of course, if the police come in, there will be gunfire, as there are armed groups there,” he ponders.
Silvia Ramos is hopeful that the change in the performance of the RJ police, whether temporary or not, will bear fruit in the future. “It may mean that the State agreed and understood that it is no longer possible to make a security policy that privileges war and death, and shows that it is possible to do it, with intelligence, planning and prioritize saving lives,” he says.
The Ponte website questioned the Military and Civil Police of Rio de Janeiro about the reason for the drop in operations and, consequently, in police lethality, and is awaiting a positioning.