Police enforcement is one of the biggest insurers of peace and security in a nation, and this security has dissipated ever since the Brazilian police went on strike. It’s due time for a reformulation of the Brazilian military police.
It has finally come to an end the 23-day Brazilian military police strike in the State of Espírito Santo, what caused a situation of complete chaos and terror amidst the streets. 200 auto thefts had been registered in one single day, and more than 199 deaths have been committed along the duration of the movement, apart from stores and supermarkets lootings. The streets were empty and there was fear all around: schools were closed, public transportation weren’t working and shops refused to open, all due to lack of public safety. Police agents’ family members had set up camp in front of the police battalions, hindering the corporation’s activities while asking for better salaries and work conditions.
Police agents for three years, have been working without a wage increase, while being exposed to severe risks daily. This alongside working exhaustive shifts and being paid low salaries for sacrificing themselves on behalf of our private property and physical integrity has led to a largely dissatisfied police force.
Lamentably, instead of discussing police restructuration and demilitarization, along with improving the equipment, training, and wages of the police force in order to better prepare a country in which injustice and social violence have always been a fundamental issue, the state governor had demonstrated ignorance and disregard towards the situation: according to him, “This is blackmail and we cannot give in to it, for it’s like demanding ransom for kidnapping the citizens’ rights”. But what about the police rights? Are they not citizens too? Well, according to the military logics, no.
Understating police demilitarization
Currently, the Brazilian police is divided into two groups: the Civil and the Military, with the former holding the same rights and duties as the rest of the general public once it is a civil institution, and the latter following a specific pattern of rules once it is linked to the Armed Forces.
The problem is that the Armed Forces are trained for war, that is, for killing. Unless the police is at war with its own people, it is not necessary for the agents to be inserted inside a rigid hierarchy, being subject to violent training, ill-treatment, and unreasonable punishment, as typical within the army; in accordance to the Military Justice, military soldiers can go to jail for merely being late, and are also not allowed to go on strike and fight for their rights — which is why it is not the own police who is blocking the corporation buildings, but their family members.
The lack of rights and the violent training explains why Brazilian military police is the one which most kills and is most murdered in the world — according to a survey revealed by the 2016 edition of the Brazilian Yearbook of Public Security, 9 people were killed due to police intervention everyday in that year in the country; this means that in six days, the Brazilian police killed the same amount the British police has killed in 25 years;
In fact, demilitarization means abolishing the warfare mode within which the police force operates, which stems from the Armed Forces and its hierarchical action; it means ceasing the training of security agents based on the idea of a war against an enemy.
Why both police and society profit from the demilitarization
In 2012, it was a UN recommendation during a meeting at the Human Rights Council that Brazil should work towards abolishing the military police, once it had been accused of numerous extrajudicial killings and abuses.
Moreover, according to the 2014 survey “Opinion of the Brazilian Police on Reforms and Modernization of Public Security” led by the Brazilian Forum of Public Security, the Getúlio Vargas Foundation and the National Secretariat of Public Security, in which 21.101 agents were heard, 77.2% of the police defended the end of the militarist model. In Rio, the acceptance is even greater: 79.1% said yes to demilitarization.
By having their rights respected, the police will learn to respect citizen rights. Acquiring freedom of expression and decent working conditions through the regulation of all labor rights, will demonstrate the public’s appreciation for the public safety and security that the police provides.
By comparison, some of the rights possessed by the civil police which the military force doesn’t have are those such as liberty of speech, not being arbitrarily arrested in the barracks, and the permission to organize itself in a union as to collectively defend its rights and interests.
This way, demilitarization will allow not only society — which will have a police force trained not for war, but for the protection of rights and the promotion of citizenship — to benefit, but will also largely benefit the police agents.