RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – Rookie police officer Damião is fearless, but he’s always late to work. Veteran officer Cosme is meticulous, but he’s become slower over time.
Together, they make a great team in the comic book series “The Adventures of Cosme and Damião.”
In one of the stories, they bust a drug dealer selling narcotics in front of a school. In another issue, they arrest a car thief. In other editions, they take those involved in reckless driving and vandalism into custody.
Col. Sayonara do Valle, head of the Military Police’s Communications and Information Center (CCI), said the law enforcement agency had two objectives for creating the comic book series.
“First, we wanted to strengthen the department’s communication with officers to guide them with respect to proper practices,” she said. “We also wanted to tell the general population a little about our daily lives and the things that are important to this institution.”
The driving force behind the Military Police (PM) of Rio de Janeiro’s idea to create a comic book series that depicts officers stopping assaults, narco-trafficking, domestic violence and reckless driving is to portray the lives of police officers to the public.
Bruno Paolo, the police officer who provides the writing and illustrations for the stories, wants the comic to mirror reality.
“I’m always reading the newspapers and I listen to what’s happening inside the PM,” he says. “A lot of times my colleagues come to me with script suggestions.”
The CCI is responsible for launching the Military Police’s new website, which receives 120,000 hits a week. The five editions of the Cosme and Damião series are available there for download, in addition to news and other services.
“We have areas restricted for use inside the department and others that can be accessed by everyone,” says Lt. Carlos Veiga, one of the website’s managers. “Based on the volume of traffic to the website, we highlight the most important sections.”
A new police force
“The Adventures of Cosme and Damião” have come at a time when the Military Police of Rio de Janeiro are receiving more respect from the public, due to the success of the favela pacification program.
According to the Brazilian Institute of Social Research (IBPS), the public’s trust in Rio de Janeiro’s civil and military police departments hovered around 25% prior to the implementation of the Police Pacifying Units (UPPs).
But the most recent IBPS public safety survey, commissioned by O Globo newspaper in December 2010, shows the public’s relationship with the police department has changed.
The survey included residents’ responses from 13 communities in Rio. For 18%, the image of the police improved significantly following the implementation of the UPPs; for 62% it improved; for 18% it remained the same; and for 1% it worsened.
In the communities with UPPs, 60% of those surveyed stated they trusted or totally trusted the PM, while 13% said they didn’t trust them. In communities without UPPs, only 28% said they trusted or totally trusted the PM, while 28% said they didn’t trust them.
“In the old days, police officers had a bad public image,” Veiga says. “Now, that’s changing.”
New adventure every two months
A new adventure of Cosme and Damião is published every two months.
“There is a possibility [the comic book will be printed and distributed], but that’s not our objective at the moment,” Sayonara says, adding the series has reached its primary audience of police officers of all levels of experience. “We have manuals and instructions that need to be assimilated by members of the department, and we realized that we could offer this content in a more interesting and effective way,” she says.
Military Police officer Rosa Gomes has been a fan of “Cosme and Damião” since the first edition and has shared the series with her 14 nieces and nephews.
“A lot of the messages are important for ordinary citizens, which is why I like to share it with them,” Gomes says. “The police routine is stressful and tiring. When I read comics, I forget my stress and learn something new.”
Gomes was born in Mato Grosso do Sul, but she moved to Rio de Janeiro to live her dream of working for the PM. She said “The Adventures of Cosme and Damião” portrays the PM accurately.
“We have corrupt cops and others who are here just for the stability it provides,” she says. “But they’re the exception because most are honest and work hard, like Cosme and Damião.”