Brazil State Police
The State Police forces, nominally under the supervision of the
state governors, are in fact associated closely with federal authorities.
The State Police, by definition, are powerful forces in their states
because municipal police generally do not exist (although municipal
guard forces are allowed, according to Article 144 of the constitution).
The city of São
Paulo is a notable exception. Its mayor, Jânio Quadros
(elected in 1985), created a municipal police force. All police
functions not performed by DPF personnel are responsibilities of
the state forces. State Police consist generally of two separate
forces: the Civil
Police and the Military
Police, sometimes referred to as the State Militia (Polícia
Militar do Estado). The Secretariat for Public Security (Secretaria
de Segurança Pública--SSP), an important agency of
each state government, supervises police activities. The SSPs are
subordinate to the National Council of Public Security (Conselho
Nacional de Segurança Pública--Conasp).
Each state also maintains a Civil Police force, which, according
to Article 144 of the constitution, is responsible for "the
duties of a judicial police force and for investigating criminal
offenses, except military criminal offenses." Given that there
are virtually no municipal police, the state forces are stationed
in populated areas and are responsible for all police functions.
Cities are divided into precincts through which the Civil Police
operate, using methods familiar to police squads in most other countries.
Police chiefs are known as delegates (delegados) , and the force
is usually commanded by the general delegate (delegado general ),
whose rank is equal to that of the commandant of the Military Police.
A delegado must have a law degree, and is selected by public examination.
Lower-ranking officers are known as investigators. Promotion to
the higher ranks of the Civil Police usually requires a law degree.
In 1997 there were 385,600 members of state Military Police organizations
in Brazil. They are ultimately under army control and considered
an army reserve. A Military Police Women's Company was established
in Rio de Janeiro in 1982. According to Article 144 of the constitution,
the function of the Military Police "is to serve as a conspicuous
police force and to preserve public order." The Military Police
of any state are organized as a military force and have a military-based
rank structure. Training is weighted more heavily toward police
matters, but counterinsurgency training is also included. Arms and
equipment of state forces include machine guns and armored cars,
in addition to other items generally associated with police.
Article 144 of the constitution stipulates that: "The Military
Police forces and the military fire departments, and the auxiliary
forces and the Army Reserve are subordinate, along with the civilian
police forces, to the governors of the states, the Federal District,
and the territories." Since 1969 the Ministry of Army has controlled
the Military Police during periods of declared national emergency.
Before 1930 these forces were under individual state control, and
known as "the governors' armies." They sometimes outnumbered
regular troops in many states. In the 1930s, the Federal Army took
steps to reverse this situation. In 1964 most Military Police members
were on the side of the successful conspirators.
The Military Police are auxiliary army forces that can be mobilized
quickly to augment the armed forces in an emergency. In the past,
Military Police units were often commanded by active-duty army officers,
but that has occurred less frequently as professional police officers
have achieved higher ranks and positions. The commandant of a state's
Military Police is usually a colonel. The command is divided into
police regions, which deploy police battalions and companies. Firefighting
is also a Military Police function; firefighters are organized in
separate battalions. State traffic police are either the State Highway
Police (Polícia Rodoviária Estadual), or the Traffic
Police (Polícia de Trafêgo) in the larger cities. Both
are part of the state Military Police.
Elements within the Military Police in some states have been notorious
for their vigilantism and death-squad activities, many against minors.
On July 19, 1993, sixteen Military Police members were arrested
in the state of Alagoas and accused of killing sixty-nine people.
On July 23, 1993, eight street children were killed outside of Candelária
Church (Igreja da Candelária), in Rio de Janeiro. The international
response was one of outrage. Four military policemen, including
a lieutenant, were arrested and eventually convicted. On August
30, 1993, thirty armed men wearing hoods entered Vigário
Geral, a favela in Rio de Janeiro, and set fires, destroyed homes,
and shot randomly, killing twenty-one people. Favela residents claimed
that the assassins were Military Police avenging the killing of
four of their members by drug traffickers in the shantytown. Later
investigations substantiated those charges. Because of such activities,
the Federal Police have been called in to investigate.
Various studies conducted in Brazil and abroad have linked the
Military Police to the death squads. Social scientist Paulo Sérgio
Pinheiro, of the University of São Paulo's Center for Studies
of Violence (Núcleo de Estudos de Violência--NEV),
stated in 1993 that "Brazil's Military Police are among the
most violent police forces in the Third World." According to
one explanation, vigilantism is an expression of frustration with
a legal system that is perceived to be inefficient and corrupt,
a court system that is backlogged, and jails that are overcrowded.
Indeed there is significant popular support for death-squad activity.
Data as of April 1997