The Amarildo case turned police chief Orlando Zaccone into a “annoying policeman”, as he defines himself. The carioca from Tijuca was already publicly defending controversial issues, even more so in this environment, such as the legalization of all drugs and the demilitarization of the security model. In addition, the delegate has an unusual trajectory: before joining the police, he was a reporter for the newspaper The Globe for a year, still in his youth, he gave up and became a hare krishna monk, “he had some existential questions”, and then went on to study law.
But none of this stigmatized him as much as the role he played in rejecting the thesis that the bricklayer's assistant, taken for questioning at the Pacifying Police Unit in Favela da Rocinha, Rio de Janeiro, and disappeared since then, had links to drug trafficking: “I was forced to put into practice what I had always defended. He couldn't let the image of Amarildo and his wife build up as drug dealers simply because they lived in the favela next to the boca de fumo. In Brazil, what is at stake is not police violence, but against whom this violence is exercised. If the State cannot transform the bricklayer into a drug dealer, the policeman will be arrested. If he succeeds, he wins a medal.”
After six months of searching for the mason's body, the Justice decreed the presumed death of Amarildo. In February this year, 12 of the 25 military police officers denounced for the disappearance and death of Amarildo, a crime that took place in July 2013, were convicted of torture followed by death, concealment of the body and procedural fraud.
After the famous case, Zaccone stepped out of the spotlight. He was removed from the title and transferred to a police station with a notary's collection, where he worked with old inquiries, without doing any public service or investigations.
Although a minority, the number of police adept to critical discourse regarding public safety is growing, who dialogue nationally on the internet and are increasingly dedicated to academic training.
Secretary General of Leap Brasil (Association of Law Enforcers against Prohibition), Master in Criminal Sciences and Doctor in Political Science, Zaccone is one of the 2.288 members of the Facebook page “Polices Antifascism”. “Contrary to the hegemonic thinking of a police force at the service of the Brazilian State, civil, military and municipal guards come together to build a police closer to the people”, says the group's presentation text.
Militarized security, according to Zaccone, is undemocratic because it builds the figure of an enemy within the state and strips it of all citizenship rights. “This starts with the drug dealer, but it could be the black block, the MST protester. We have two issues: one is the existence of a military police force, with a military regiment and workers who are built not as workers but as soldiers. The militarized role of public security is another matter. The end of the PM does not solve this problem”, says the delegate.
For Zaccone, the discussion about a new model of public security needs to take a turn and start involving police officers: “You have to talk to the public, to the clerk. If you ask the officer and delegate, they will say that everything is fine. These security models are designed to guarantee privileges. Letting cops participate in this can be a problem. A police officer who identifies himself as a worker may not want to throw bombs and clubs against a teacher, because the fight is the same. They want the policeman as a watchdog.”
This is also defended by Lieutenant Anderson Duarte, from the Military Police of Ceará, creator of the Facebook page “Police Thinker”, with 3.813 members. “I created the page in 2014, when I noticed the lack of dissonant voices in the public safety debate. Either there was a conservative, militaristic debate, which reinforced the war, or, on the other hand, a 'left' debate that was not concerned with listening to progressive police officers, that saw the police as something just bad and did not seek to understand the police as a worker".
Anthropologist Luiz Eduardo Soares, a public security scholar for 20 years and one of the authors of PEC 51, which proposes a reform in the institutional architecture, says that police officers were excluded from the debate due to a number of factors: political repression, prohibition of unionization of military police officers and a discourse of the category, for the most part exclusively corporatist, that does not mobilize the rest of society for not discussing a broader public security policy. “This report could not have been written ten years ago. This organic intellectuality in the police is something absolutely new and it gives us a lot of hope because changes will only happen if the police are part of it. They are the protagonists”, says Soares.
At the time a university student of Geography, Duarte joined the police “without the slightest notion” of the problems of Brazilian public security – according to him, a failed model. The opportunity to delve deeper into the subject occurred especially in postgraduate courses. During the government of former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Renaesp (National Network for Advanced Studies in Public Security) was created, a national free study program for public security agents.
“The more than 50 homicides a year, along with the growing incarceration rate, demonstrate how bankrupt our system is. Our police officers are underpaid, undervalued, kill and die a lot, including high rates of suicide. Democracy has not yet fully reached the barracks, as shown by the disciplinary arrests, which place military police officers in the position of second-class citizens. This can only be explained in a situation of war, of exception. The war we have is the 'war on drugs', which subverts the work of the police, causing them to leave their role of conflict mediation, fundamental for any democracy, and dedicate themselves mostly to the seizure of drugs, which is not a problem of the police, but of public health and economy, since there is a demand and a supply that need to be regulated. As a result of the abandonment of the State in this field, deaths and imprisonment of the poorest, without any reduction in the population's sense of insecurity. It is necessary to demilitarize politics”, says Duarte.
Data from the 10th Yearbook of Public Security show that nine people are killed by police officers per day in Brazil and at least one police officer is killed, mostly during off-hours. From 2014 to 2015, the number of violent deaths in the country stabilized, but those resulting from police actions grew by 6,3%, reaching 3.345. The number of police officers killed dropped 3,9% to 393.
Despite his activism, Duarte was never administratively arrested. According to him, however, there are veiled forms of punishment, such as unmotivated transfers and non-promotion. In 2015, Duarte was selected by the National Secretariat of Public Security to compose a team of five police officers who would work in the National Pact for the Reduction of Homicide. The Ceará Public Security Secretariat, however, did not release him to go.
Abuses committed by the police are not a deviation from the function of the corporation – on the contrary. Since its origins, the public security system in Brazil has existed to serve the state and the elite, not society as a whole. This is what Elisandro Lotin, a corporal in the Santa Catarina Military Police, says: “We have a highly concentrated state, idealized from an excluding and elitist economic logic. The function of the police is to maintain social control over 95% of the population, which is outside any political-economic discussion, when necessary, with the use of violence. The big question is that the police don't realize that they are part of that 95% of those excluded”.
In October, the Justice of São Paulo had determined, based on a Civil Public Action filed by the Public Defender's Office, that the State pay R$ 8 million in compensation for collective moral damages due to the police violence that occurred in the 2013 demonstrations, which the PM draw up a protocol for the use of force in protests within 30 days and each soldier working in this type of event wears a visible identification with his name and rank in the hierarchy. The sentence also stated that less lethal weapons, such as rubber bullets, stun bombs and tear gas, could only be used in “extremely exceptional situations”, and it was up to the PM, in the event of the use of weapons, “to inform the general public that circumstances justified his action and the name of the military policeman who ordered the repression”. Less than a month after the decision in the first instance, the Court of Justice suspended, on November 7, the injunction that limited the role of the PM in demonstrations.
Violence against protesters was repeated in the various protests against the government of Michel Temer this year. On the first day of the PMDB's definitive presidency, a young woman lost the sight in one eye when she was hit by a rubber bullet during an act in São Paulo. Press professionals, although identified, were also victims of police attacks while covering demonstrations. Case of photojournalist Marlene Bergamo, from FSP, who was hit by a rubber bullet on November 2, during the eviction of a building in the central region of São Paulo.
Lotin is president of Anaspra (National Association of Squares), member of the board of Aprasc (Association of Squares of Santa Catarina), of Conasp (National Council of Public Security) and of the Brazilian Forum of Public Security. He was also a candidate for state deputy for the PSOL in 2014. According to the Military Penal Code and current regulations, he could not even grant this interview: “I was punished several times, including administrative detention. Can you imagine a doctor who cannot talk about health? Well, base officers can't talk about public safety. But, more and more, our people question and mobilize against it”.
Anaspra defends the demilitarization of the police as a way of separating the corporation from the Army, inserting these professionals within the scope of labor rights and humanizing relations within the barracks. For Lotin, defending the rights of police officers is the first step to combat the violence committed by the Brazilian State, one of the highest in the world, and to rethink a new model of public security: “If the police are degraded in their most basic rights as a worker, and citizen, will he respect the rights of others?”.
According to the corporal, the number of complaints of torture and ill-treatment in the barracks is increasing, which does not necessarily mean an increase in cases of abuse, but in the complaints themselves. For him, this is mainly due to the use of social networks. “That's my perception. There is no survey of the complaints, neither by the security agencies, which they try to hide, nor by the research agencies, which do not have access to this data.”
Soares says that prosecutor Glaucia Santana, from Rio de Janeiro, presented a term of adjustment of conduct to the State in December 2015, after receiving anonymous complaints from UPP police officers: “Originally, her report started like this: 'I found the police officers working in conditions analogous to slavery'. We held meetings with three PM colonels to present this document. The three unanimously said that this happens because the police are military. If they complain, denounce, refuse to fulfill these journeys, they are administratively arrested and run the risk of losing their careers. They have no right to demonstration, disobedience, unions. This is very useful for governments, which may require them to work double shifts under all kinds of pressure. It is evident that the necessary and legitimate corporate struggle naturally meets with a much larger political struggle, which is demilitarization. Another coincidental flag is for the single career, ending this border that makes soldiers never reach officers, non-delegates never become delegates”.
The rate of moral and sexual harassment of women in public security bodies reaches almost 40%, according to data from the Brazilian Public Security Forum. “There are images on the internet, anyone can see, of a police officer in training and eating the same food as a dog, in the same trough. Psychological torture, that's the rule. The threats. We had cases of police flexing on the hot asphalt at 15 pm, in a 40 degree sun. The film Tropa de Elite shows that scene of the guys eating food on the floor. It happens,” says Lotin. In 2013, a military police officer was brain-dead days after becoming ill during training in which he did exercises on the hot floor.
The first difficulty in mobilizing occurs among the MPs themselves, according to Lotin: “To begin with, the Constitution prohibits us from having a union, we have an association. First you have to overcome internal barriers, our own people have a hard time accepting that they have rights they must fight for. When he hears about a demonstration, the guy is left with a question mark: he doesn't know if he's a worker, a police officer or a military man, if he's a citizen, if he's not. He is conditioned throughout his life not to think about it.” Lotin says that there is no organized movement of these police officers, nor a common mobilization agenda. According to him, it was something that arose “spontaneously” in several places in Brazil.
In September of this year, Anaspra met with the National Secretary of Public Security, Celso Perioli, and with the Minister of Justice, Alexandre de Moraes, to discuss the demands of the category, such as the end of administrative prisons, the rearticulation of a group discussion about moral and sexual harassment inside the barracks and the social security issue.
Bill 148, which abolishes administrative prisons, was approved in the House in August and is now being processed in the Senate. “This arrest is discretionary, that is, it depends on whether the commander likes you or not. It does not have a clear regulation that is in accordance with the dictates of the Constitution. If I get involved in an incident and end up taking someone's life, it's very likely that I'll be free to respond. But if I don't have a hat, I could go to jail”, says Lotin. Administrative detention follows a faster rite than usual and is determined by a commander, usually for internal reasons, such as putting on a dirty boot, being late or giving a statement to the press.
Sergeant Luciano Galesco, from the São Paulo Military Police, was administratively detained for two days after complaining on his Facebook page about the snack offered at the barracks. According to his lawyer, Raul Marcolino, state deputy Coronel Telhada (PSDB-SP) claimed to have felt offended by the publication and reported the fact to the commander-in-chief of the PM, who ordered the arrest.
Marcolino was a military police officer for 12 years, during which time he graduated in Law. In 2014, he resigned to become a lawyer and defend police officers who were victims of abuse: “I have seen cases and been the victim of others. I was unfairly arrested several times, prosecuted administratively and I was always able to defend myself, so I became a lawyer. As a police officer, I couldn't help anyone, now I can help police officers.”
Marcolino repeatedly receives veiled threats because of his professional performance and says he needs to ride in an armored car. The lawyer says that his clients often suffer repression in the barracks after being defended by him. Even so, the number of police officers looking for him is increasing.
Lotin argues that the strengthening of the questioning police movement accompanied the creation of the Brazilian Public Security Forum, which is now ten years old: “These researches confirmed what we knew empirically. Knowing that 74% of the military police officers interviewed defend demilitarization as a way of humanizing public security gives us greater meaning and tells us that we have to change the model”.
Still, right-wing and far-right ideologies predominate within security institutions. At a meeting of police officers working on the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, federal deputy Jair Bolsonaro (PSC-RJ), known for advocating the death penalty and violent police actions against criminals, was cheered and received with push-ups. “Bolsonaro is something of an icon among police officers, and this is strange because he never defended the category. In fact, he recently voted in favor of PEC 241, which could freeze salaries and even promotions. I think people are starting to wake up to the demagoguery of the myth,” says Lotin.
Zaccone sees the current economic crisis as an opportunity to raise awareness: “From a political point of view, it is a wonderful moment because the police are seeing that all the exercise of the model that interests political and legal power does not bring any return for them as workers. With the financial crisis of the states, the police are without salary. At that moment, the fact that they are workers comes to the fore.”