The Future of UPPs in Rio

The Future of UPPs in Rio

By Dialogo
April 11, 2013


The Pacifying Police Units’ (UPP) goal is to establish community police inside the slums, as part of a project by the State Public Security Department in Rio de Janeiro, which aims to dismantle the gangs that control drug trafficking operations in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas.

The first UPP was inaugurated in Santa Marta slum on November 20, 2008. Subsequently, other units were implemented in communities such as Cidade de Deus, Batan, Pavão-Pavãozinho, Morro dos Macacos, among others.

The program has been well accepted by experts and so successful that governments from various states replicated the approach. For example, Bahia has created the Security Community Bases (BCSs), the government of Paraná state created the Paraná Security Community (UPSs), and the government of Maranhão implemented Community Safety Units (USCs), all inspired by Rio’s Pacifying Police Unit.

Diálogo visited the General Command of the Military Police of Rio de Janeiro (PMERJ) to speak with Colonel Robson Rodrigues da Silva, Chief of Staff of the Administration, about what will happen with the UPPs going forward.

Diálogo: How many UPPs will be implemented between now and the beginning of the 2014 World Cup?

Colonel Robson Rodrigues da Silva: 40 UPPs will be implemented by 2014. I believe that the plan varies depending on the scenario. It is not something permanent. The need may arise suddenly, or assemble over a period of time, but the goal is to have 40 UPPs deployed there. Not all UPPs are alike. Some will have more units incorporated, and others less. If we take a look at the first UPP, in Santa Marta, it was basically a UPP for one community. We moved from simple to complex, such as the situation in the Complexo do Alemão favelas. We did not expect to reach the Alemão slum as early as we did. We intended to gain know-how, more experience, but the requirements of that moment caused us to initiate the process of pacifying the Alemão slum. It turned out to be beneficial because we established the know-how. The operational plan started to materialize, to gain strength, and from that point on, it became a very useful factor during the occupation of the Rocinha slum, shortly after.

Diálogo: Did the Armed Forces participate because of the anticipation, or was it already planned?

Col. Robson: The plan was to start, at first, from a logistical point. We conducted a study of all the areas where we intended to deploy UPPs and which had the greatest need for human resources. The program did not have this basic concept in the beginning, it was an open process. Therefore, in that initial moment, Rio de Janeiro presented a very different scenario. There was excessive tension; the society did not trust the system, law enforcement agents were very afraid, truly afraid. So the initial idea, according to the plan until 2014, was to simply occupy the territory. Then we would start to incorporate technology and the need for better preparation for police officers so that they could achieve improved individual productivity, instead of having the same old concept of the prior model of police which used to believe that a territorial occupation requires many people. It was proven that quality has more value. At that time we were forecasting results by using a certain number of officers based on that perspective, but using this model. It was a very simple calculation: if I am going to occupy the Alemão slum I will need many more people. In other words, the production speed, the capacity, and the training of these police officers had a limit, a rhythm, a timing, which showed that at that moment we would not be able to provide the human resources for the occupation of Alemão slum,. It’s a simple calculation: we needed a certain number of officers, and the only force that could help in that situation and that would remain as a retaining wall until the police came in was the Army.

Diálogo: After the World Cup, between the World Cup and the Olympics, will this process of establishing UPPs continue?

Col. Robson: The Military Police is currently preparing to continue with the process. Of course there are political factors. However, I do believe that our society is more established, our institutions are already consolidating democratically, and therefore the people have more voice, naturally increasing the pressure so that certain policies remain. But within an environment that has fragile institutions, there is greater risk. I believe that the pacifying process is giving the population a voice, which plays a very important role. In the past the public security authorities, particularly the police, were seldom called to participate in any political event because they would be targeted. Not anymore; we are now called in to work there, especially because it increases the popularity of certain politicians. I believe that this program is essential and any politician would be crazy to end it.

Diálogo: Regarding the use of technology, we recently noticed that 80 surveillance cameras were installed in the Rocinha slum. Is this a new trend? Is Rio de Janeiro’s Military Police properly equipped to support the upcoming mega events?

Col. Robson: With the use of technology, materials, etc., projects for the large events have been planned for a long time, for over four years. I do believe we will be prepared.

Diálogo: Will the pacifying process take some of the burden off the security forces during the mega events?

Col. Robson: A few years ago, if you were at an event aside from the regular ones, let’s put it this way, the Armed Forces would come and the Police would occupy the slums because they would not have been pacified. There was no pacifying process, only an apparent tranquility, everyone heavily armed, and afterwards everything would go back to what it used to be. The new factor is precisely the pacification, bringing peace, and a more solid security. This helps with the planning and execution, for sure.

Diálogo: As far as other countries’ interest in the UPPs establishing something similar…

Col. Robson: Many countries, such as Venezuela and Argentina, have already expressed interest. Panama has an agreement with us, and the first military police unit base has already been built there. It was inspired by what we have here. We also trained their police officers there. They have a similar characteristic to Rio de Janeiro, which is a slum in the middle of the capital city. Mexico has also expressed interest, and we have also sought similar experiences abroad. We had a committee traveling to Portugal to observe their police. We are establishing an agreement and we will send some officers to Ireland and Scotland to deal with these affairs. This occurred because the Irish Police had a recent transition with the IRA, which made the transformation possible. Scotland also stepped in when they learned about our interest, since they had their own interests in something that we were doing here.

Diálogo: What about the countries that will host events such as the World Cup? Is there an exchange of experiences and information?

Col. Robson: Coincidentally, we are going to South Africa. We have an agreement with the Liberté Institute, which is currently performing some tests with our UPPs to design specific police functions. We also went to Dakar, in Africa, to address the drug issues, because the UPP has a very revolutionary view regarding drug prevention. In Spain, we went to Barcelona and Madrid, and we will send officers to Salamanca, as well as exchange information with Colombia. Officers from the BOPE, Shock troops, and the UPPs will organize a course there. Even with the International Committee of the Red Cross. The exchange has been very interesting. This has increased the visibility of Rio de Janeiro, not only because of the Olympic Games and other large events, but also because of this process, which brings a different possibility aside from the usual combat vision. So we created the Proximity Police in Rio de Janeiro, and the reaction was: “How did you do that?”, “What is the formula?” And many people are coming here, not only officers, but ministers, prime ministers, and other important politicians from various countries come here, even from Norway.



Rio de Janeiro, April 15th 2013.

Colonel Robson,
I AM glad to see PMERJ/RIO Corps efforts recognized.
The most important is to never give up, because de TARGET has a great value!
Also, the people know that nowadays the Pioneers have presence in internal and external actions, and that they make all the difference in all the Institution’s decision-making.
PMERJ has a great quality, especially Rio de Janeiro, because it can count on “The Pioneers Corps Courageous Ones/class/1983” which celebrates 30 years in the Corps. Congratulations! Also, the female teams after 1983. I speak about the women’s importance and worth, and their social efforts and actions designed by Colonel Sayonara do Valle, Colonel Bernardete Campbell, Colonel Cátia Boaventura, Colonel Célia Rodrigues. I quote: (the reference I make is due to the fact that I had the privilege to, at a certain point, be with some of them, and I noticed part of their performance at work, so now I can have the honor to be able to mention them), and may I say to all of them, Mirian Broitman, Rosana Reis and Deise Contreva, and others which I know only through pictures or by their field action but who certainly have a job position of main importance, relevant places, and who perform several roles at the Corps and who I call “The Warriors!”
I AM grateful to God, for the ones who fight and feel humanity’s hearts beating, pulsing and hurting.
I am grateful for the responsible Police Officers who are God’s gifts for me and for the people.
The female Corps may go on, and all women and men of war and peace, with my prayers and with many Christians certainty who ask God to protect you and your families.
Greetings in Jesus Christ.
Celeste Lucindo. well... may this project continue, but don’t forget the baixada fluminense region, because criminals migrated to that place when [the police] occupied [the slums] to install the upps [Pacifying Police Units], they informed previously the criminals about the occupation’s time and day, this way they gave enough time for those kids to go terrorize other communities.
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