By Jaye Forte, Contributing Reporters
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – It was reported yesterday that the Magistrate of the Military Police (PM) called for a search of the Special Operations Battalion (BOPE) police force’s headquarters, and currently is holding two of the elite unit’s officers in custody. The report by O Globo says that six BOPE police officers are suspected of misconduct during a raid in the Morro da Covanca favela community of Jacarepaguá, in Zona Oeste (West Zone) last month.
On Thursday (July 9th) the Military Police Internal Affairs arrived at the headquarters of BOPE, on Rua Campo Belo 150, Laranjeiras, next to the Tavares Bastos favela community which also boarders in Catete.
In addition to searching the BOPE offices and barracks, the internal affairs operation fulfilled search and seizure warrants in the homes of police officers – two majors, a captain and soldiers. Two officers were arrested and taken to the police station. According to the PM, irregular weapons were found in their homes. The identification of the officers, however, was not disclosed.
In addition to the weapons, the internal affairs operation seized over R$72,000 in cash. Most of the money, R$40,000, was the home of a major. One of the officers was R$24,800. The rest was divided into the homes of two other officers. According to the PM’s press office, the action on Thursday was the first part of a military-police inquiry (IPM) established to investigate misconduct.
BOPE has been a revered and feared elite police force known for being incorruptible, as depicted in the “Tropa de Elite” films, and hence the news of this operation has sent shockwaves through the security forces and public. Although tracing its origins as far back as 1978, it was in 1991 that the official formation under the name Special Police Operations Battalion (BOPE), was established within the PM.
It was not until December 2000 that the unit gained own headquarters though, set up in an old abandoned building on top of the Tavares Bastos favela community in Laranjeiras. The current commander is Lieutenant Colonel Carlos Eduardo Sarmento da Costa.
Unfortunately the PM in Rio de Janeiro are Brazil’s most corrupt police force, according to the National Victimization Survey in 2013, commissioned by the Ministry of Justice and the United Nations Program for Development. The study also showed that the state of Rio is subject to more crime than the rest of the entire Southeast region, including São Paulo.