RIO DE JANEIRO – A group of demonstrators, most of them relatives and friends of police or security officers, on Thursday demanded measures to combat the elevated numbers of murders of police in Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro state, where so far this year an average of one death has been registered every three days.
The protesters, who painted their clothing and hands red, gathered on Thursday morning in front of the Rio de Janeiro state Legislative Assembly, where they laid out life-sized uniformed figures representing police officers who have lost their lives and 91 wooden crosses representing the number who have been killed so far this year.
The protest coincided with a hearing at which members of the Special Investigatory Commission created by the Legislative Assembly to study the matter on Thursday questioned several experts on the problem.
“Our aim is to get the attention of the authorities so that more severe legislation is created because the current regulations are too light to reduce the crimes against the police,” said retired police Lt. Nilson da Silva, the spokesman for the SOS Police non-governmental association.
Lawmaker Paulo Ramos, of the leftist Socialism and Freedom Party, or PSOL, and who heads the Assembly commission investigating police deaths, backed the adoption of urgent measures to protect the officers.
“The number of dead police between January and October this year is very high. Eighty-eight have been killed just ... with firearms and that’s not counting the 360 who have been wounded,” he said.
The state Assembly, however, has also created special commissions to investigate the elevated number of victims of police violence in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s third most populous state.
According to a recent report by the NGO Human Rights Watch, the Rio de Janeiro police killed more than 8,000 people over the past decade, including 645 last year and 322 between January and May of this year, and many of those deaths were the result of “extrajudicial executions.”
The number of civilian deaths in alleged “confrontations” with police between 2013 and 2015 was five times higher than the number of wounded, the opposite of what should be expected in those situations, according to the human rights defense organization.
According to the organization’s figures, last year, for every officer who died on active duty in Rio, the police killed almost 25 people, more than three times the rate in the United States.