By Stephen Eisenhammer, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Another important step was taken Monday in Rio’s attempts to increase security in the city ahead of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20, as the tourist police (BPTur) and the Federal University of Fluminense (UFF) inaugurated the first class of a new extensive course on policing in tourist areas.
The course which takes seven weeks, teaches officers in the BPTur, which is part of the military police, to work at big international events which will be held in Rio de Janeiro. The first enrollment is for 35 officers who will make it through the course in time for Rio+20, which begins on the June 13th.
“The BPTur officers will be more aware of the history of the places in which they work. It is important that they understand the historical context of each landmark and learn to interact better,” BPTur commander, Lieutenant Colonel Joseli Candide, said about the course.
As well as history, those on the course will be taught elements of touristic marketing, conflict negotiation, community support, policing in tourist areas, as well as practical Spanish and English.
This new approach aims to integrate the police into the fabric of the city, training them to provide a social service that stretches beyond a merely security oriented role.
Security remains a major concern in Rio de Janeiro, and the city is doing all it can to guarantee that the Rio+20 event is hosted within a safe and secure environment. The event is being seen by many as a test-run for the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016, both of which will attract record numbers of visitors to the marvelous city.
The integrative role is also supposed to be an overarching philosophy of the city’s other major security program, the Pacification Police Units (UPPs), which aims to secure favela communities and socially merge them back into the main parts of the city, after years of social and political neglect. The program has been largely successful with the recent exception of Rocinha which seems to have temporarily stumbled.
Zezinho, who runs a tour company in Rochina as well as a DJ school for the community, explained to The Rio Times that a lack of communication continues to exist between the occupying police force and the local community. “I’m not against policing, but we need honest policing and not the corruption and threatening behavior we are currently seeing,” he said.
Another recent policing program is the Choque de Ordem (Shock and Order) plan, created in 2009 in the city of Rio with the goal of “putting an end to urban disorder”. The Unidade de Ordem Pública (UOP) arm of the program involves a heavy police presence on the streets, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The UOP was first inaugurated in Tijuca on April 18th, 2011, with 180 Guarda Municipal (Municipal Guard, MG) officers monitoring some thirty streets. On September 5th it was launched in Centro with 420 MGs, and in Leblon on October 27th, with 220 MGs, and December 5th in Ipanema, with 234 MGs working in shifts.