By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – A meeting between Rio de Janeiro’s state security secretary, Jose Mariano Beltrame, and top military and civil police chiefs was held on Monday afternoon, December 1st, to discuss the recent wave of violence against police officers in the city. Since the beginning of the year more than 106 police officers have been killed in Rio’s Metropolitan area. Last Saturday alone, November 29th, three military police officers were killed in the state.
“Unfortunately in Rio to kill a police officer is seen as a trophy,” said Beltrame in an interview on GloboNews Monday night. Beltrame stressed however that although most of the killings occurred in areas where there has been the implementation of Pacifying Police Units (UPP), the deaths happened when the officers were off-duty and not while patrolling the streets.
According to the security official during the meeting officials discussed the rise in the number of deaths of police officers as well as possible new areas for the implementation of the UPPs. Beltrame said he saw no connection between the UPPs and the recent deaths, but acknowledged that in areas where the pacifying units were installed there has been growing tension.
The security secretary added that no new UPPs were scheduled to be implemented this year. The UPPs were created in 2008 as a way to reduce criminality in some of Rio’s most dangerous areas, usually favelas (or shantytowns), by permanently patrolling streets and clearing them of drug traffickers and criminal gangs. Today there are over 35 UPPs throughout the Metropolitan Rio de Janeiro area.
According to the secretary, an assessment of the units already in placed is needed before new units are implemented. He also said that the mentality of police forces, both military and civil, have to be changed before violence is reduced.
“We can not work with blood in our eyes. We cannot go up the hills [where the favela communities are located] and come down with two or three corpses. [This] is not going to resolve the situation. If killing and dying were the solution we would not have a security problem in Rio de Janeiro,” added Beltrame.
Rio’s police force is known to be one of the most violent in the world, and is at the top of the list as one of the most violent police forces in the world.
According to Beltrame one of the problems with security in the city today is that the police has lost its status of being a public security manager and has been forced to go into more dangerous places and conduct itself in a more violent manner.
Rio’s governor, Luiz Fernando Pezão, stated over the weekend that the recent deaths of these officers will not dissuade the city’s police force. “I want society to know that each death of a police officer represents an increase of police on the streets. The police will not leave the streets. Nothing will make us back down,” he told reporters.