These were the words of the just-appointed interim commander of the Military Police, colonel Íbis Silva Pereira, in an interview yesterday with O Globo newspaper.
After years of investment in reforms that many observers find insufficient, the statement can only be seen as both an unburdening and a gamble, both regarding the core of the city’s turnaround. Without public safety, nothing in Rio has value, ultimately, for anyone.
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In Brazil, police forces, traditionally divided up by task and partially militarized, find difficulty in working together to solve and bring down crime. They also have little experience with on-the-spot responsibility and decision-making.
A report just issued by the Forum Brasileiro de Segurança Pública (Brazilian Public Safety Forum) found that the cost of violence comes to six percent of national GDP — and that nationally, Brazilian police killed more people in five years than American police did, in 30.
It’s hard to say why the newspaper didn’t give more play to the colonel’s statement. He’s on the job until January, when he becomes chief of staff for Colonel Alberto Pinheiro Neto, who’ll then take up the post of commander.
Public safety specialists were pleasantly surprised by Silva Pereira’s appointment. He himself, some say, was thinking of leaving the force soon. He represents an embattled reformist school that values human rights and community policing, in conflict with a deeply-rooted war on crime, in a context of worrisome police corruption.
The new commander’s approach springs from a previous reform attempt in the 1980s, under the command of Colonel Carlos Magno Nazareth Cerqueira, when Leonel Brizola governed the state of Rio. In 1999, Cerqueira was shot dead in the lobby of a building near the Santos Dumont airport — allegedly by a military police officer.
Silva Pereira told Globo that he intends to change the military police statute, which dates to 1981, “to aproximate or perhaps even equal, the speed at which punishment and expulsions for transgressions occur for soldiers and officers. We propose that the exclusion procedure be the same for all”.
He has already appointed Colonel Wolney Dias to the position of Military Police Director for Internal Affairs, with the goal of “bringing Internal Affairs closer to other agencies, such as the Public Safety Secretariat’s Intelligence Department, the Unified Internal Affairs Office — and civil society groups”.
This sounds quite reasonable.
Silva Pereira said that Dias will also oversee police work and the degree to which police rights are met, such for as vacation and days off.
The interim commander proposes the creation of a drug prevention program in UPP (pacified) favelas and a partnership with the Guarda Municipal to patrol the streets of formal areas of the city.
Only the future can tell how much of a welcome such practicality will receive in Military Police battalions.