By Benjamin Parkin, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Security personnel in Rio de Janeiro will receive an 11.18 percent pay raise this month, according to the Rio state authorities. The increase, which applies to military police, fire fighters, civil police and prison inspectors, is proportional to double the inflation of the past year.
Government sources say the pay increase will apply to 133,387 people, including active, inactive and retired personnel. Consistent raises above inflation in recent years represent an attempt to improve the wages of security personnel in order to ‘value’ their service, according to the governor Sérgio Cabral.
According to the Broad Consumer Price Index, inflation has risen by 5.59 percent over the past year, however most residents in Rio would say it was at least double that. Now in total, with the new 2014 raise, the starting salary of a military police officer has increased by 232.69 percent since January 2007.
The pay increases, since January 2014, break down as follows: a military police officer’s starting monthly salary has risen from R$2,677.27 to R$2,909.50. A sixth class civil police officer’s monthly salary has risen from R$2,998.69 to R$3,333.94. A corporal of the fire brigade’s salary has risen from R$2,392.63 to R$2,660.12. And the basic salary of a penitential security and administration inspector rises from R$3,983.67 to R$4,429.04.
In February 2012, Rio de Janeiro’s State Legislative Assembly voted to approve an increase in the salaries of civil police, military police and fire fighters, and prison inspectors by 39 percent in the following year, with a prevision of a R$2,500 monthly salary by 2014. However, police and fire fighters went on strike, demanding an increase to R$3,500.
The Association of Corporals and Soldiers of the Military Police of the State of Rio de Janeiro told The Rio Times that the pay increase was “ridiculous,” and said that “the raise is not sufficient for the service given”
The association continued, “We should be earning a salary proportional to the work we do,” citing R$4,000 per month as appropriate remuneration, according to the previsions set out by Rio de Janeiro state law 279/79 for the remuneration of military police and fire fighters.
“The salary is very basic in relation to our service and in order to provide for our families… We work 24 hours a day; even if we are off duty, we are still on call if it is necessary. We do not have the conditions to form a union. And if we try to undertake action, we are called irresponsible.”
Brazil is a dangerous place to be a police officer, and in 2012 a survey by Folha de S. Paulo of the state departments of Public Safety revealed that policeman is killed every 32 hours in the country. The report listed 229 civil and military police killed that year, although for some reason the majority of them, 183 (79 percent), were off duty. Camila Dias, from the Center for the Study of Violence at USP, at the time said the number is high. “Just for comparison, in 2010 56 officers were murdered in the United States.”
Just last week in Rio, military policewoman Alda Rafael Castilho was killed, shot in the back outside a police station in the Complexo do Alemão group of favelas. Another officer, who was inside the station at the time, was also hit by gunfire, and violent crime rates in general are on the rise inside and out of the city.
At the same time, a study in 2013 found Rio’s military police service to be the most corrupt in the country. The National Victimization Survey, commissioned in 2013 by the Ministry of Justice and the United Nations Development Program, recorded cases of police extortion across the country and found Rio’s military police responsible for 30.2 percent of total incidents.