Police Brutality in Urban Brazil

Rapid, unplanned growth of Brazil’s urban centers—11 of its cities are home to more than a million people each—has been accompanied in most cases by soaring crime rates and public dissatisfaction with the criminal justice system. In several states, authorities responded with policies that tolerate or promote grave violations of the rights of criminal suspects. We examine extrajudicial executions, near-fatal shootings, and forced disappearances of civilians, and both the inadequate or constructive responses of political, prosecutorial, and judicial authorities.Focusing on seven of Brazil’s cities, we found that police often kill without justification, frequently file false reports describing extrajudicial executions as shootouts with dangerous criminal elements, and then take the corpses of their victims to emergency rooms so that "first aid" may be administered. By removing bodies from the crime scene (a violation of Brazilian law), they undermine any investigation. In some states, police have continued the abhorrent practice of forced disappearances. When presented with indictments in the few cases that are investigated, Brazilian courts, particularly those in the military justice system, fail to fulfill their legal obligation. Bias against criminal suspects is nearly as pervasive in the courts as on police forces and in society at large.

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