Guest post by Amanda Higazi
Police corruption, though condemned by the international community, is a transnational problem that continues to impede justice. In comparison, although both Brazil and the United States of America suffer from police corruption, the sheer prevalence of corrupt practices displayed in Brazil demand the implementation of reform measures. Modifications should be made that incorporate civilian oversight, training, effective classroom instruction, pilot programs, and an innovative system of checks and balances within the Brazilian police force.
Research shows that Brazil has violated fundamental human rights in breach of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture which was ratified in 2007. Police abuse and torture allegations have been so prominent in prisoner facilities that they are believed to have been what incited the creation of the First Command of the Capital (PCC), arguably Brazil’s most powerful prison gang. There are also routine assassinations of street children and random civilians by police. Furthermore, there is a growing epidemic of police cover-ups for routine assassinations that often get documented on police reports as resisting arrest or retaliatory gang fire. In addition to this, there is an unlawful practice of police tampering and/or destroying evidence.
Since Brazil is only a recently democratized country, the preceding dictatorship has been effective in instilling a code of silence assumed by its citizens. Brazilians continue to live in a perpetual state of fear since witnesses are not welcome to speak out about their police or government. Due to nature of retaliatory killings by police death squads for anyone who questions the regime, there is essentially no witness protection offered. Although both the United States and Brazil evidently have a pervasive trend of police corruption, it appears to be a more prominent concern for the latter because of the severity-- and sense of normalcy-- the citizens have associated with it. Although this appears to be an inextricable quandary there has been considerable effort made towards reform.
My research has addressed the scope of these reformations, considering many of which are mirrored after programs implemented in the United States, such as civilian complaint review boards and increased police training. Within this context, my research also addressed the rudimentary elements that are present within the society that enable police corruption to continue, as well as some of the efforts already underway to combat it. For example, the Sao Paulo government's requirement that police contact emergency response teams for assistance and treatment at the scenes of shootings, and prohibiting them from altering the scene or removing victims, will go a long way to prevent cover-ups of police abuse. The policy should be national. In an effort to create a better tomorrow, it is imperative that all injustices are brought to light today.
Amanda Higazi is a Masters student in the International Crime and Justice program at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She is an advocate for international human rights and seeks to ameliorate impunity within the criminal justice system which often challenges the protection of civil liberties.