Federal intervention could provide a truce for effective public policies, but probably won’t
Given how little we know about the Eastern Command’s new, overarching role in Rio de Janeiro’s public safety — announced late Thursday night– one thing is certain. The planning for it has only just begun.
Not a good sign. Planning is one of the weak areas of the existing state public safety structure, as is working together. Research your blogger has done on the subject over the past four months shows that Rio is an archipelago of interest groups, most of them competing for shrinking resources, be they governmental, private sector or crime-produced. Joining hands to serve society as a whole is a rare phenomenon.
The military may be able to clamp down on criminal activity in greater Rio, for a time (they’ll be here at least until the end of this year). But much more than boots on the ground are needed, to bring us greater safety. Here are what some specialists have been proposing:
- Police reform— training, lethality, corruption, career paths and advancement, integration between Civil and Military Police forces, demilitarization, management, work conditions, computer and data systems and usage
- Greater police coordination with the judiciary, so criminals don’t get back on the street so easily.
- Prison reform — more humane conditions, crackdown on gangs and perks, reduced numbers (shorter terms for less serious crimes)
- Greater weapons control — bigger role for Federal Police, creation of a Coast Guard, gun licensing system such as that for automobiles
- Creation of a Public Safety Ministry, with a key policy and policy-inducing role for the federal government (Temer may do this soon, according to press reports)
- Drug legalization, with Portugal as a model, focusing on public health
- Crime prevention among youth, in schools and communities at large
Police reform alone is fraught with obstacles (including the need for a constitutional amendment) and entrenched interests; imagine trying to do even a part of the rest as well. Where are the funds?
Military crimes are not subject to the civilian legal system, judged instead by a military court; this has already caused problems in Rio, in a recent case of a military/civil police operation in São Gonçalo, with mysterious deaths resulting.
We’ve got an extremely complex situation — in an election year with more unknowns than Brazil has ever faced. Given the years Rio has been in trouble, financial, administrative and crime-wise, it’s hard to guess just what finally brought president Miguel Temer to this historic decision, and the promise that federal intervention purportedly holds for us.
We may well rue the night we guffawed, as the Paraiso de Tuiuti samba school rolled its Temer Vampire float down the Sapucaí avenue.