Brazilian police state kills five citizens every day

In Brazil, police officers kill an average of five people every day. 351 in São Paulo, 20 percent of all homicides in the city. In 2012 1,890 Brazilians were killed by the police, according to a security report from the Brazilian Forum on Public Security.

A Brazilian Forum on Public Security report found that 70 percent of Brazilians distrusted the police.

According to Adilson Paes, a retired police lieutenant colonel who conducted a study on police brutality, some officers turn vigilante. This was also the conclusion of an investigation into policing in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo conducted by Human Rights Watch: Many deaths of civilians “resisting arrest” are in fact extrajudicial killings, the report found, and “some police officers are members of ‘death squads,”’ which are “responsible for hundreds of murders each year.”

In São Paulo, many attribute a recent drop in killings by the police to a new rule that forbids officers to transport wounded suspects to the hospital or offer them first aid. It turns out that police officers had been picking up people who had been wounded by the police officers themselves, and then executing them on the way to the hospital. Five months ago, a young man allegedly committed suicide in the back of a police car, after being arrested for robbery. If that’s true, he somehow managed to shoot himself in the head while his hands were cuffed behind his back.

Two years ago, the United Nations Human Rights Council recommended that Brazil abolish its military police; other international groups have criticized the force for beating and torturing detainees. But the discussion here has been polarized. Human rights organizations are often seen as apologists for criminals: “Some believe that investigating and prosecuting police abuses would weaken the hand of law enforcement, and thereby strengthen criminal gangs,” says Human Rights Watch.

But lately, more Brazilians have been taking notice, as police brutality is increasingly directed against journalists and political protesters (many from the middle class), instead of just the same old black and poor citizens who live in favelas.

Many officers at protests work without identification tags and inhibit journalists from filming and taking pictures. In a recent poll, 64 percent of police officers claimed to be unprepared to deal with mass demonstrations.

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