RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – A gun in one hand, a Bible in the other – that’s what symbolizes Military Police Sgt. Silvano Oliveira who works in the Brazilian state of Pará.
In the mornings, Silvano, 40, carries a rifle and patrols Barreiro, one of the most violent neighborhoods in Pará’s capital, Belém.
At night, Silvano returns to the same favela with his Bible, opens the Evangelho Quadrangular Templo da Vitória Church and preaches to the faithful.
Even when Silvano becomes Pastor Silvano, he still packs a pistol, hidden behind his suit jacket, in the back pocket of his pants.
“Eight years ago, I thought about leaving the police,” says Silvano, who is part of Pará’s elite unit of police officers, known as ROTAM. “I didn’t understand how I could keep working with a Bible and a gun.”
Silvano lives a double life, one that he struggles to balance.
“In 2009, I was called upon to join a group known as the Military Police of Christ,” he says. “I studied, I reflected upon it, and I realized that being a police officer is also a priestly duty.”
And so, by arresting criminals and preaching the word of God, Silvano landed a leading role on the reality show Papo de Polícia 2 (Cop Talk 2), which premiers in Brazil on March 12, at 9:15 p.m., local time on the Multishow cable TV channel. Viewers also can watch the show on the channel’s website.
The reality show depicts the daily lives of police officers in eight episodes, seven in Pará and one in Rio de Janeiro.
The first season featured an officer from Brazil’s Civil Police, Beto Chaves. In this second season, Silvano shares the spotlight with another military police officer, Sgt. Sérgio Dantas, 44.
Dantas, who has worked for the Military Police since he was 20, is a member of Rio de Janeiro’s Special Operations Battalion (BOPE), an elite force that became famous after being depicted in the movies Elite Squad and Elite Squad: The Enemy Within.
During his free time, Dantas competes in triathlons and marathons.
Much like Silvano, Dantas also had doubts about his future as a police officer.
“During an operation in the Morro do Cantagalo favela, in the 1990s, I was in the lead when a friend asked to switch places with me. He was older and more experienced, but he wound up getting shot. He took a bullet for me,” Dantas says. “I stopped to think about what I was doing with my life. But, afterward, I realized that this is my mission.”
In the last episode – the only one shot in Rio – Dantas heads into the Morro do Fallet favela, in the downtown neighborhood of Santa Teresa. There, he welcomes the changes that have happened in Fallet and many other communities since 2008, when the implementation of the Pacifying Police Units (UPPs) started.
Produced by AfroReggae
The favelas were an easy choice for the show’s setting by the reality show’s production company, AfroReggae, an NGO that works with underprivileged youth from poor communities.
All five cameramen who filmed Papo de Polícia 2 grew up in the favelas. Two of them are former drug dealers from Rio de Janeiro’s Complexo do Alemão: Mister M., 26, and Juscelino Vitorino, 25.
Vitorino is shown crying in one of the episodes after hearing a military police commander in Pará talk about the hardships of life. The scene ends with the former drug dealer hugging the officer.
“The day before, I was talking with friends about how my life had been up to that point and how it was changing,” Vitorino says. “When I heard such beautiful words coming from a police officer, it moved me. It was like my father was talking to me.”
During the 15 days he spent in Pará, Vitorino made a new friend: Dantas. The two talked about the confrontations between BOPE officers and narco-traffickers at the Complexo do Alemão and realized that they had been on opposite sides, exchanging gunfire.
Adrenaline and reflection
The reality show alternates moments of reflection, like those with Vitorino, with moments of intense action, such as Dantas and Silvano pursuing kidnappers, bank robbers and narco-traffickers.
They even participate in an operation with police officers mounted on buffalos, at Ilha de Marajó, in Pará. The battalion stationed on this island is the only one in Brazil that uses these animals, which allow them more easily to traverse the region’s flooded terrain.
A curious aside is the double shift, as in the case of Officer Ronald, who takes off his uniform and paints his face for his second job as a juggling clown.
A night of violence
José Júnior, AfroReggae’s coordinator, makes his directorial debut in Papo de Polícia 2.
“There were no scripts and no secrets. We went out and filmed everything that was happening,” he said after a screening for guests at the NGO’s headquarters in the downtown Rio de Janeiro neighborhood of Lapa, on March 7.
Col. Robson Rodrigues, a 48-year-old former commander general of the UPPs and current administrative chief of the Military Police attended the preview of Papo de Polícia 2.
“The reality show has an interesting angle. By getting behind the scenes of police work, it clarifies a series of issues related to the police,” says Col. Rodrigues, who has a background in anthropology. “Papo de Polícia 2 shows the human side. It also shows how hard police work is.”
That same night, while AfroReggae was hosting the screening in Lapa, the Vigário Geral favela, 16 miles away, was invaded by drug traffickers from the Comando Vermelho criminal organization. The NGO has one of its centers there.
In recent years, Vigário Geral has been dominated by the Terceiro Comando criminal organization, and the invasion was a clear indicator the situation remains dangerous in favelas that have not been pacified.