Police violence part of Brazil’s security problem

by Heidi Lipsanen

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photo by Heidi Lipsanen

On the morning of April 22nd 2014 the body of 26-year-old Douglas Pereira, the talented dancer of a popular television show, was found on the yard of a kindergarten in Rio de Janeiro’s Pavão-Pavãozinho slum. Locals and his family refused to believe the initial police statement according to which the injuries were compatible with a death caused by fall. Instead they took to the streets. Images of burning car tires and testimonies of gunfire between the police and the community spread like wildfire in international media. Another man lost his life during the disarray. The kick-off of the FIFA Word Cup was less than seven weeks away and the eyes of the world were fixed on Brazil.

The following day the uncomfortable truth behind Douglas’ death was announced. His slender body had been penetrated by a lethal bullet, which was later matched to a police firearm.

Nearly a year has passed since Douglas was murdered. Despite delays in the investigations his mother Maria de Fátima hopes the officer who triggered the killer weapon will be brought to justice. There is, however, a hint of despair in her voice on the other end of the phone line.

“The police was created to arrest, not to kill“, Maria de Fátima says and compares the Brazilian police to a combat force. “But the system is very corrupt and I just wonder how they will ever manage to pull these bad officers off the streets”, she adds and wishes that God will deliver justice in case the Brazilian judicial system fails to do so.

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