Rio Police to Use Less Assault Weapons

By Andrew Willis, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Military police in Rio are gradually replacing their rifles with non-lethal weapons such as electro-shock taser guns, according to an announcement by the government of Rio de Janeiro State last week. The move will mainly affect police on radio-patrol missions in pacified favelas.

Rio police showcase non-lethal weapons, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News

Rio police showcase non-lethal weapons at a demonstration last January, photo Divulgação.

“In total, 273 guns have already been replaced with tasers, shock weapons used to immobilize suspects that take a threatening stance during police operations,” said a government statement Thursday, November 8th.

“The department of security has already distributed 1,265 tasers that emit a shock of 50,000 volts against the human body, but with a low intensity of 0.0036 amps,” continued the statement.

The government hopes to eventually limit the use of assault riffles and weapons to special police units. Reaction to the move away from rifles and other high-caliber guns has been mixed.

“The initiative [...] is bold and valid. This shows that the state government is serious about changing the policing model,” Almir de Oliveira Junior, director of state policies, institutions and democracy with the Institute of Applied Economic Research (IPEA), told The Rio Times.

“If pacification has been successful in a particular location, then there is no need to carry heavy weapons that are more appropriate to the military than to the police.” Oliveira added, however, that even tasers can kill if used incorrectly.

Fernando Belo, a retired military police colonel and president of the Officers Club of Rio, criticized the measure because of the way it was announced. Belo fears that criminals, especially those who are still heavily armed, could take advantage of the information.

A UPP officer with rifle in the Vila Cruzeiro

A UPP officer with rifle in the Vila Cruzeiro favela in Complexo da Penha (Zona Norte), photo by Bruno Itan/Imprensa RJ.

“The idea of gradually retiring the rifle is good, but it should have been done privately [...] We are giving ammunition to the criminals,” he said after the government’s announcement, according to local media.

The initiative comes amid the government’s ongoing favela pacification program, launched in 2008. While not without its controversies, the program has garnered considerable support, with studies showing a marked decline in violent killings within the targeted Rio communities.

At the head of the state’s program is the Secretary of Security José Mariano Beltrame, who is now one of the most recognized public figures in Brazil. Beltrame has repeatedly spoken out against the unnecessary use of large caliber weapons, claiming that their indiscriminate use merely puts the city on a path towards war.

However many residents in the city’s favelas are reluctant to see the police hang up their rifles just yet, despite the periodic reports of police abuses and heavy-handedness. “The stun-guns only work at short distance. So they may be suitable for protecting tourists on the beach, but not in the communities throughout Rio,” said Eualdo, a taxi driver and favela resident in Rio’s Zona Norte.

“We’ve seen a lot of improvements in recent years, thanks to the presence of armed police.” he explains. The government’s pacification program marks its fourth year in operation this week.

2 Responses to "Rio Police to Use Less Assault Weapons"

  1. Richard Golding  November 14, 2012 at 1:36 PM

    Start forming gang units, and as well in the Prison system, a great deal of info can be obtained as to the outside gang activity as well as inside the Prison, intersepting letters going and coming, cavity surches are needed as well, It sounds personal and is, but you can’t have drugs, phones, and contraband entering or leaving Prisons,
    Tasers are great to have and they should be issued, but do not take the assult weapons from the Police, the gangs have wepons that maybe more powerful then what the Police are armed with, did anyone think of that?

  2. John Hesse  November 14, 2012 at 1:51 PM

    Non-Lethal tools such as Tasers, rubber bullets, OCD Spray, water canons ,ASP’s etc are great for crowds getting out of hand.
    I must agree to make it public knowledge is a heads up to the criminals their lives are getting easier. That said , word would get out anyway so let’s not waste words on that matter.
    Add a taser to an officers standard issue gear but DO Not Deny a policeman a sidearm, a can of spray and an ASP.
    That is crucial to his survival in a confrontation with a hardcore armed perp. Also let the officers retain a shotgun and a capable automatic rifle or at least a big bore semi-auto rifle in their cars trunk.
    To eventually replace all weapons to only special police units would create thousands of “Bobbies” as they are called in Britain.

    Thanks For Listening, John H.

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