By Felipe Araujo, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – UPP (Police Pacifying Unit) officers working inside Rio’s favela communities will from now on have their work closely monitored by a special police force. The measure comes as a response to a corruption scandal involving twelve UPP police officers in the favela of Mangueira, a week ago.
Starting this Wednesday, a Pacifying Police Coordinating team (CPP) will be working within and around the UPPs in various favela communities, in a concerted effort to rebuild the police force’s credibility and curtail corruption.
The first communities to be affected by the new initiative are the ones in Complexo do São Carlos, in Estácio and Rio Comprido, located in the city’s Zona Norte (North Zone).
The new task force will be comprised of representatives in the administrative, operational, intelligence, social planning and communication areas, and will be available to respond to both police officers and local residents.
The plan is for the CPP team to be as closely involved with the work of the UPPs and the needs of the local population as possible. Colonel Rogerio Seabra, Chief Coordinating Officer, has made it clear that his team’s job is not only to monitor the work of the UPP officers, but also to assist in anything they can: “We’re going to spend the day there working and listening, paying close attention to the needs of both police officers and residents,” he said.
These tighter control measures come after a dozen UPP police officers in Mangueira were arrested on charges of extortion, when a family member of a known drug dealer made a complaint that the officers came into his home, apprehended drugs, two cell phones and demanded R$3,500 in cash to not take away the drug dealer in question.
It is not the first time that UPP police officers are involved in corruption allegations. Last year officers in the favela of Coroa, Fallet, and Fogueteiro, in Santa Teresa, were put under investigation over accusations they were receiving monthly payments, known as ‘mensalão’, from drug dealers, so that they would allow the drugs to flow freely. Some officers were receiving as much as R$70,000 per month.
Also in April 2012 a report revealed that Military Police officers in Rocinha were accepting bribes from traffickers. According to the documents, traffickers made a “down payment” of R$200,000, and pay out R$80,000 a month. Shortly after new measures were announced to help curb corruption among police.
The UPPs came into being in 2008 and were set up by the State’s Office of Public Safety, with the mission to free Rio’s favelas from the control of drug traffickers and organized crime. The initiative has been well received by specialists, but critics have been quick to point out areas to improve.
A common criticism is that the favelas in Zona Sul (South Zone), where the most affluent neighborhoods and the famous tourist landmarks are located, are getting preferential treatment, while the more impoverished areas in the city’s Zona Norte are not receiving the attention and care they need from the authorities. Other criticism falls mainly on corruption, which the city – and the country – is taking steps to stop.