The pendulum of public safety

Image_Oto Vale


Brazil has a public security organization model that generates various federative and republican noises

Over the last few months, the issue of security has, as expected, been at the forefront of the public debate. However, even in evidence, the area gained this prominence more because of the political-institutional issues associated with it than because of a discussion on reducing violence, fear and crime. In order to understand the reasons for this dissonance, this text takes advantage of a reflection made for the Boletim Fonte Segura1, maintained by the Brazilian Public Security Forum to provide a panoramic picture of some of the main topics on the agenda in the area.

And the result is quite worrying and a source of concern, as we realize that evidence has been mobilized and several alerts have been issued, but few effective changes have occurred. Starting with the fact that the country has not been able to overcome a scenario that has been repeated over the last 30 years, that is, a scenario that causes public security policies to be formulated and implemented as if inserted in an eternal pendulum between those who believe that security is the effect of social and economic macrocauses and those who prefer to reduce all problems in the area to the effectiveness of criminal law and criminal procedure. We did not build a public ethics capable of interdicting violence and guiding the country towards a more efficient model of crime control and guaranteeing citizenship.

Only more recently have we begun to talk about security governance; management changes and game rules that could create conditions for an environment of violence prevention, fear reduction and qualified repression of crime. After all, Brazil has a public security organization model that generates, as I have pointed out in other articles2, various federal and republican noises. We have almost 1400 public organizations whose activities directly impact the quality of public security and we do not have robust mechanisms for coordinating efforts between State bodies, Powers and government spheres. Unlike SUS, in Health, the Union has no legal attribution to coordinate the security system as a whole.

This means that the Military Police, for example, deal with around 150 million incidents every year in the country and, in a loop endlessly, they have to forward something like 10 million of these calls to the Civil Police, the Public Prosecutor's Office and the Judiciary each year. We have huge numbers and almost no articulation on how to deal with such a magnitude of cases, with almost everything being treated the same way – from theft of a shampoo to the theft of an armored car, passing through the arrest of people with small amounts of drugs. It is almost impossible not to saturate the criminal justice system, even more so when each institution or branch defines its goals and action plans.

And, even when goals and plans exist, they remain dependent on priorities and political leadership and/or are the result of articulation with international organizations such as the IDB (Inter-American Development Bank), which seek to influence the direction and direction of public policies in return to the release of loan operations and technical assistance offered by them. Document obtained by CNN Brasil3, from the Secretariat for International Economic Affairs (SAIN), of the Ministry of Economy, reveals, for example, negotiation with the Union of around 180 million dollars for the financing of the “Federal Program for Intelligent Public Security”, with USD 45 million of that amount allocated to “qualification of public security management and governance”; another US$45m for “implementation of social and situational violence prevention programs”; USD 72 million for the “modernization of police organizations”; and, finally, USD 18 million for the “qualification of the prison system and resocialization programs”.

The problem is that, in general, such projects do not change organizational cultures created before the 1988 Constitution, despite the fact that they follow international recommendations and good practices, as indicated by a study prepared by the FBSP at the request of the Government of Ceará, when the Ceará Program was created. Pacific4 in 2018. In many cases, faced with the possibility of new resources offered by International Organizations, state and federal managers add projects of their interests, already in progress, to the conceptual proposal formulated by the banks, without necessarily keeping the components of each project related to each other. itself and the contracting unit have a mandate to implement all planned activities. This is the bureaucratic way in which the Federation Units, which, with the exception of São Paulo, depend on federal resources from voluntary transfers to make investments in equipment and processes in security, accept external interference without, however, changing their practices. In the end, international credit operations repeat the attempts of the various national public security plans during the Collor, FHC, Lula, Dilma, Temer and Bolsonaro governments to link the release of resources, conditioning them to the acceptance of actions and programs specific, but have a low capacity for incidence and change.

There is no guarantee that the proposed programs will have the same efficiency and effectiveness as those that inspired them in the world, but, in a context of budget constraints, the resources of international organizations mitigate the fiscal crisis and the non-compliance, on the part of the Federal Government, of the new rules of the SUSP (Single Public Security System), which makes it mandatory to transfer funds from lotteries to the Federation Units. It is important to highlight that the Bolsonaro Government is trying, in practice, to block the transfer of resources from new sources of revenue from lotteries to offer the Federation Units the guarantee to contract international loans, which draws even more attention to the “anti-globalist” narrative that the current government assumes for itself. This is a reckless move for state public finances, as it exchanges financial resources free of charge estimated, when the SUSP was enacted, at R$ 800 million in 2018; BRL 1,7 billion in 2019; and BRL 4,3 billion in 2022, for loans that will need to be repaid. The contracting of international loan operations would be a factor of greater transparency, quality of spending and governance if it were accompanied by the execution of already available and cheaper resources.

The same government that negotiates, through the Ministry of Economy, the contracting of international loans for public security in the states and DF is the Government that, in the Ministry of Justice and Public Security, fails to implement the National Policy of Public Security and Defense Social provided for in the SUSP in particular, as already analyzed in the 41st edition of Fonte Segura5, the structuring of programs for the Professional Enhancement of Police Officers and SINAPED, an evaluation and monitoring system whose function is to standardize metrics and indicators common to all members of the Unified Public Security System. The fact is that, despite recent reforms with the creation of the Unified Public Security System (2018) and the amendment of the National Public Security Fund law with forecast of lottery resources, expenditures and actions in the sector by the federal government remain expressionless6.

In the background, there is dissonance between the infraconstitutional legislation and the commands of the Magna Carta, since practically all the legislation that still regulates security today predates the 1988 Constitution and the legislators did not regulate the practical meaning of being and doing police work in the democratic context, in the context of the social order inaugurated in 1988. The Judiciary Police (Civil, Federal, Military for military crimes) are based on the police inquiry institute, created in 1871, and on the Criminal and Criminal Procedure Codes (Civil and Military) of the first half of the twentieth century. Prisons are managed based on legislation from 1994 and the Military Police still function according to the assumptions of Decree Law 317, of March 13, 1967, kept almost intact by the R200 (Decree 88.777, of 1983), which is still in force and that speaks of “internal security” and not “public security” – legislation that, a priori, goes against the Constitution insofar as its Article 144 says that PMs are managed by the Governors, while Article 3º. Decree 88.777/83 says that they are “coordinated” by the Army.

The practical result of this situation is that, having two chiefs, the military police have become excessively autonomous and today they decide almost without question who to obey and what are their operational standards and the scope of their actions. And, considering that the socially and politically valued standard of policing, regardless of whether the police are Civil or Military, is the one that accepts the idea of ​​an internal enemy and that “a good criminal is a dead criminal”, it is not surprising that we have so many deaths resulting from police intervention. Investigation and intelligence work give way to warlike confrontation in the perception of how crime control should be carried out in Brazil, encouraging the PMs, who are the guarantors of public order, to adopt patterns of use of force that would be unacceptable in consolidated democracies in the world.

The issue is not just that of individual police abuse, but of valuing combating the enemy, even if other policing standards could generate better results in reducing violence and controlling crime. This fact justifies that we have about 6 deaths resulting from police intervention per year in Brazil, a number that, in comparative terms, is six times higher than that of the United States. In addition, the climate of constant confrontation and the poor working conditions of Brazilian police officers are among the factors that caused the number of police officers who committed suicide to rise.7 in Brazil in 2018 (104 cases) was greater than the number who died as a result of confrontations on duty in the streets (87).

However, the responsibility is not exclusive to the Military Police. When we look at the political speeches, for example, of Jair Bolsonaro, Wilson Witzel and João Dória, during their elections, we perceive the stimulus to the strategy “aim at the little head” and the expansion of special police units (which the media incorrectly treats as “ elite troops8, which makes police officers who are not part of this unit think that they are the reference of being a police officer and adopt the same standards and subcultures) that work in the “Route” pattern9, and which removed police officers from the Tactical Force and Territorial Patrol by imposition of the governor. It is not surprising that cases of police violence increase when government officials, for electoral reasons, defend tougher police officers against crime10.

The Public Ministry, in turn, which has the constitutional prerogative of external control of police activity, has enormous difficulty in supervising the Police beyond the concentrated control of each police investigation initiated and, in general, focuses on the legality of the individual action of each police officer. There is no control in terms of collective guardianship of institutional standards and procedures of the police, even after CNMP Resolution No. 201/201911, which amended Resolutions No. 129/201512 and No. 181/201713, both from the CNMP, with the aim of adapting them to the provisions of International Human Rights Law, especially the decision in the case Favela Nova Brasília v. Brazil, of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

Meanwhile, the Civil Police end up dependent on the volume of cases of flagrante delicto sent by the Military Police and have difficulties in investigating and clarifying the authorship of crimes, with special emphasis on homicides of unknown authorship that demand the observance of practices common to the police (isolation of the crime scene, collection of evidence, custody of technical evidence, among others). Without common parameters or collective guardianship control by the MP, such crimes have their investigations affected by the low inter-institutional articulation at the end of the line and by the lack of an institutional project for the civil police, which, as a consequence, are being scrapped and relegated by the government. . And, what is more serious, the movement of criminality is, in many states, more susceptible to the scene of organized crime than to public security policies. Governments usually claim merit for reducing such crimes (who does not remember the various tweets by Sergio Moro boasting of the drop in crimes in 2019 without, however, pointing out what was done and/or his silence after the resumption of growth of the indices) but, when they go up, as in the last 6 months (Graph 1), the police are charged without, however, making progress in mitigating the governance dilemmas imposed by the federative and republican pact in force in the country.

Author's elaboration

At the same time, in the face of institutional pressures and weaknesses, one of the most cruel and invisible expressions of Brazilian racism is manifested in the numbers of violence: 75% of victims of lethal violence in Brazil are black. Black youth die more than white youth; black police officers, although they make up 37% of the police force, are 51,7% of the murdered police; black women die more murdered and suffer more harassment than white women. The data is from the Brazilian Public Security Forum14. Likewise, for the last 3 years we have been observing the growth of sexual crimes, assaults and feminicides. And, with the Covid-19 pandemic, there is a worsening of domestic violence and even greater growth in feminicides.15. And this growth is not reflected in the records of occurrences in police stations, since social isolation makes it difficult for victims to travel and places the need to create new channels for denouncing and welcoming women in situations of violence.

And, to make the picture even more complex, there is no national index of homicide clarifications that guides the integrated planning of actions. Survey carried out in 2018 by the Violence Monitor16, a partnership between Portal G1 with the Brazilian Public Security Forum and the Center for the Study of Violence, indicated that only 24,7% of homicides, on average, are clarified and forwarded to the Public Ministry in the country, with Federation Units presenting even lower percentages and indicative of the complete failure of the idea of ​​holding perpetrators of crimes and violence accountable, as shown in Graph 2. of drug-related crimes, since the legislation on the subject (law 11.343/2006), ended up aggravating the situation of inequities and lack of metrics that governs Brazilian security.

Author's elaboration

And, speaking of the drug law, one of its most visible effects is the explosion of the country's prison population, which in 2019, according to DEPEN/MJSP, had around 760 prisoners (in yet another evidence of the low coordination and governance of the area, here there is also no consensus between the Executive and Judiciary Powers and the Public Ministry, with each one presenting a different number of prisoners). About 1/3 of these prisoners are in a provisional situation, which is when they have not yet been tried or are awaiting a decision on any appeals filed. In the impossibility of guaranteeing minimum subsistence conditions for prisoners, the State, as a perverse side effect of the criminal and penitentiary policy, ended up strengthening the more than 70 existing prison-based factions in the country, the best known being the PCC and the Red Command. , who went to war in 2016 and sent violent death rates skyrocketing in several states. This conflict takes on different contours in each UF, depending on the partnerships with local factions, but it causes a very high level of insecurity and uncertainty.

More recently, the transfers of PCC leaders from São Paulo in 2019 and the arrest of Fuminho, one of the largest drug wholesalers in South America, in 2020, by the Federal Police, seem to indicate a generational change within the PCC that may alter the equation of forces between prison base factions. Factions that had their businesses affected by the pandemic and needed to find new sources of financing and “working capital” to maintain their drug sales points (international trafficking, in one example, was affected by the decrease in flights and the reduction in arrivals and exit of goods in the main ports of the country, reaching a lack of marijuana to serve some big cities like São Paulo).

At the conjunctural level, the Brazilian prison system has also been pressured by the Covid-19 pandemic. Prison Insider data17 and the Global Prison Trends 202018 reveal that Brazil incarcerates around 7% of the world's prisoners, while registering approximately 5% of the cases of Covid-19 and 4,2% of the deaths of prisoners on the planet. These numbers make the country have the second prison system most affected by Covid-19 among all the countries analyzed. Brazil is second only to the US, which accounts for 20,9% of the world's prison population and records 74,4% of Covid-19 cases among prisoners and 44,3% of prisoner deaths in the world.

But, which in theory would be positive news due to the fact that the country has, proportionally, contagion and mortality rates due to Covid-19 inside prisons lower in relation to its proportion of prisoners in the world, prevention and control energies have been lost in the political debate19, increasing the risk of rebellions and reinforcing the diagnosis of low integration and articulation between the different actors and institutions whose actions directly impact public security. Throughout the pandemic, the National Penitentiary Department (DEPEN) tried to implement a model that, in the early 2000s, in Espírito Santo, became known as “tin prisons” and whose deleterious effects are much greater than the announced benefits of separation and isolation of prisoners. Likewise, the feeling that the Judiciary was opening prison cells and releasing dangerous criminals with the approval of CNJ Recommendation No. 62/2020. However, data compiled by the CNJ itself indicated that the estimated national average rate of people who were arrested again after leaving prisons due to the pandemic of the new coronavirus and committing new crimes was less than 2,5%.

At the same time, the growth in power of the Militias, especially in Rio de Janeiro and Pará, is a cause for concern because they signal the idea of ​​political control of territories and the populations that reside in them, at the same time that they are composed of many members and former members. -members of police forces. Left unchecked, militias represent a new and dangerous level of political violence that has received little attention from Executive Power and Police authorities. The fear is that, with the political news exposing the connections of former police officers Fabricio Queiroz and Adriano da Nóbrega, killed by the Bahia Police in circumstances not yet fully clarified for the population and accused of being the leader of one of the main militias in Rio de Janeiro, the “Crime Office”, with President Jair Bolsonaro’s family, new accusations could destabilize the country’s political-institutional scenario.

And, speaking of politics, another factor that puts pressure on public safety numbers is the excessive politicization of the country's police forces.20. Unlike members of the Public Ministry or the Judiciary who, if they want to run for office, need to give up their careers in these institutions, Brazilian legislation has loopholes that meant that, between 2010 and 2018, 7.168 MPs ran for elections throughout Brazil without the need to leave their careers – one in every 58 police officers on the streets has political ambitions – taking into account that, at the end of 2018, the PMs had a staff of 417.451 men and women on active duty)21. Only if elected do they need to step aside. Otherwise, they go back to corporations. The problem is that, once in politics, hardly a person returns willing to accept orders without further questioning. Police and Politics are two fundamental spheres of public life in a democratic nation, but they cannot be confused or one can appropriate the other to achieve its objectives.

An example that demonstrates the degree of politicization of the police and the risks posed by it22 is the riot of the Military Police of Ceará, in February, when in the midst of a salary negotiation, an entity led by a supporter of the Bolsonaro government placed itself against the agreement reached between the other associations and the state government, of the PT, and made with that, in that period, scenes of terror and violence took over that state. And, in that month, Ceará recorded a record 456 homicides, which helped to reverse the downward trend in the rates of this crime that were being observed between 2018 and 2019. The uprising only ended after the government reluctantly sent federal troops and the approval, by the Legislative Assembly of Ceará, of the governor's bill prohibiting amnesties for rioting police officers.

Legitimate demands for better living conditions, work and salary for police officers were being appropriated by partisan political projects. However, in evidence that such social processes are not unidirectional or absolute, the Bolsonaro Government, which has the support of significant portions of members of the police, has made very little progress in the implementation of concrete measures that favor all police forces and has preferred to avoid internal competition with Bolsonarism, as in the case of the rejection of Colonel PM Araújo Gomes, who presided over the National Council of General Commanders of the Military Police and Military Fire Brigades, to take over SENASP. The National Secretariat for Public Security was divided and Colonel Araújo Gomes was passed over in favor of another PM officer more closely linked to the president's core of confidence and with much less exposure and ascendancy with the state Military Police. This allows the Government to maintain control of the police support narrative and was, in my opinion, a way of avoiding the strengthening of leaders other than the president, such as former ministers Sérgio Moro and Luiz Henrique Mandetta.

*Renato Sergio de Lima He is a professor at FGV-EAESP, CEO of the Brazilian Public Security Forum and Assistant Secretary of ANPOCS.

Originally published on Fonte Segura Weekly Bulletin (, from the FBSP.


























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