By Zoë Roller, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – This year Rio de Janeiro hosted the International Chiefs of Police (IACP) South American Executive Policing Conference, from August 21st-23rd. The event was held concurrently with INTERSEG, the International Law Enforcement Technology, Services and Products Exhibition. The conference’s theme was “Security Planning for Major Sporting Events”, making Rio an ideal venue for discussion.
State Secretary of Security José Mariano Beltrame opened the conference with a brief welcoming speech, and the keynote address was delivered by Mohammed Hanzab, president of the International Center for Sport Security (ICSS).
The ICSS, which is based in Doha, Qatar, is a nonprofit organization that provides security consultancy, research, and training to governments hosting major sporting events. While in Rio, Mr. Hanzab met with Secretary Beltrame, Brazilian Army Division General Oswaldo de Jesus Ferreira, and State Secretary of Major Events José Ricardo Botelho about the security challenges Rio faces.
Mr. Hanzab’s speech focused on the importance of sharing security strategies among nations staging international sporting events, many of which are developing countries and first-time hosts. He outlined the services ICSS provides to event organizers, including training security teams, assessing risk, and developing a master safety plan.
In an interview with The Rio Times, Mr. Hanzab identified transportation security as Rio’s greatest challenge, and stressed the need for a master plan to coordinate the city’s military and civil police forces. He dismissed the possibility of terrorist attacks during the events.
Mr. Hanzab concluded that legacy needs to be the first priority in planning major events; that “people should believe their lives will be better afterwards.”
Mr. Hanzab also participated in a panel discussion on the conference’s theme, along with Helmut Spahn, Executive Director of ICSS; Chris Eaton, FIFA’s Head of Security; Kathy O’Toole, Chief Inspector for Garda Síochána; and Mlungisi Ncame, Head of Security for the South African Football Association.
Mr. Ncame explained South Africa’s security strategy for the World Cup: “One of the things we did was a legislation, the 2010 Special Measures Act, a law which specified the expectations of FIFA from the South African government and the commitments that we’re making.”
The government created a special 24-hour court system for crimes committed in event spaces. “The purpose of that was to arrest, prosecute, and effect a sentence within a 24-hour period, and that was a major deterrent to deal with any incidents that were committed in the official event.” These expedited trials handed out unusually harsh sentences: ten years in prison for baggage tampering, and seven years for credit card fraud.
Mr. Eaton and the rest of panel expressed approval for the initiative, and agreed that it sent a strong message to international visitors. It is likely that Brazil will adopt harsher sentencing policies for the upcoming major events.
Safety and security will be a challenge for Rio, especially with the global images of wide-spread violence between police and drug gangs just last November. More recently a minibus and van carrying twenty foreign and Brazilian employees of petrochemical company Odebrecht was robbed on a highway in downtown Rio by a group of eight well armed masked men.