Community policing spreads throughout Brazil
By Dialogo April 12, 2012
PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil – Rio de Janeiro’s initiative to pacify its favelas and strengthen ties between local police and the communities they serve is the most famous community-policing initiative in Brazil.
But it isn’t the only one.
Every Brazilian state has adopted similar strategies in an effort to reduce crime and combat narco-trafficking.
By the end of 2010, 130,000 community police officers from across the country had been trained by the Ministry of Justice’s National Public Safety Secretariat (SENASP).
Classroom-based training was provided to 81,000 public safety professionals (military and civil police officers, firefighters and municipal guards) and community representatives. Another 49,000 police officers received training through SENASP’s distance-learning network.
“The way in which community policing is implemented has to be evaluated on a state-by-state basis,” says Cristina Gross Villanova, director of SENASP’s Department of Policies, Programs and Projects. “The secretariat has a specific office focused on the implementation of community policing that is in constant contact with state authorities.”
SENASP has overseen the community-policing project since 2006, when the National Community Policing Doctrine was introduced to coordinate the efforts of police and the communities they protect.
“The main goal is to find out about existing problems in order to prevent violence and crime,” Villanova says. “These professionals have to be trained to strengthen ties and interact with the community, to focus on policing that is oriented toward solving problems and work together to build nonviolent alternatives to conflict resolution.”
PRONASCI helps provide security to communities
In 2007, Brazil’s Ministry of Justice determined it was time to go beyond community policing. With its National Program of Public Safety and Citizenship (PRONASCI), it combines public safety policies with social initiatives.
All 26 states and the Federal District have received PRONASCI’s training courses and funding for community-policing projects.
A total of R$31 million (US$17 million) has been allocated to state governments through PRONASCI, with an additional R$55 million (US$30.2 million) having been provided by the National Public Safety Fund since 2003.
“The difference with PRONASCI’s proposal is the way it networks with other areas of expertise,” Villanova adds.
Through PRONASCI, public safety professionals are trained how to direct the population to the Brazilian government’s Unified Health System (SUS) and Unified Social Assistance (SUAS) programs.
Victims of domestic violence, for example, can be treated by the SUAS Special Social Protection program, which handles cases involving violence, sexual abuse and drug use.
Positive experiences throughout Brazil
In 2008, Rio de Janeiro was just beginning the process of pacifying its favelas with UPPs.
There are now 19 UPPs that benefit 1.5 million in 74 communities. Policing is carried out by 3,956 law enforcement officials.
Rio de Janeiro’s Department of Public Safety wants to increase these numbers by 2014, with a force of 12,500 officers working from 45 UPPs covering 165 communities and serving an additional 860,000 residents.
“This is just the beginning of a long job,” says Col. Rogério Seabra, UPP coordinator. “The idea is to bring these citizens back into civil society. It begins with the installation of the UPPs, followed by the entry of basic services, which are still coming in, together with the UPPs’ [program to improve the community’s public services].”
In the state of Mato Grosso, the concept of community policing began being discussed at the end of the 1980s, with cooperation between the military police and the local community.
“Since then, it has been constantly evolving,” says Maj. Júlio Martins de Carvalho, the Mato Grosso state coordinator of community policing. “Now, the military and civil police work together, with guidance provided by community security councils in each region served by a community-policing post.”
In total, there are 23 units, including 17 in the capital city of Cuiabá.
In Rio Grande do Sul, the RS na Paz (Rio Grande do Sul in Peace), the State Program of Public Safety and Citizenship, is taking on added dimensions.
The aim is to bring the police closer to the community, with officers living in the neighborhoods in which they work. The pilot project began in the city Caxias do Sul on March 14. The local government will help the state in paying the officers’ rent for housing.
“We will select officers who meet the profile for community-policing work,” says Carlos Sant’Ana, coordinator of RS na Paz.
Another feature will be the introduction of new services at police stations, with training provided to the staff.
Projeto Acolher (Project Welcome), for example, will offer psychological, legal and social assistance to victims of violence who come to police stations to report an incident. The pilot project will be carried out in the city of São Leopoldo later this year.
Pact for Life in Bahia
In the state of Bahia, the Pacto pela Vida (Pact for Life) program operates through regional offices, which develop public policies for the state’s most vulnerable areas.
The regions chosen for the program are those with the highest population and violence rates. To date, five offices have been implemented in the capital city of Salvador and seven more have been established in the state’s interior.
“We arrived in regions where there were conflicts with drug traffickers and the residents wanted to leave the neighborhood,” says Col. Zeliomar Almeida, the superintendent of Violence Prevention at Bahia’s Department of Public Safety.
Prior to operating in these communities, the officers will receive 60 hours of training in community policing, which includes human rights and conflict mediation.
Each group of 120 officers operates within a 1.15-square-mile (2.98-square-kilometer) perimeter that covers, on average, 20,000 to 30,000 residents.