For an end to ‘resistance’ classification for police killings
Shortly before the vote on the bill (4471/2012) that puts an end to the ‘resistance’ classification – used to record killings by police officers, and frequently used to cover up executions – 10 civil society organizations, among them Conectas, presented a document with seven technical reasons to support the proposal. The bill has already been passed in two commissions (Constitution & Justice and Public Security) and should be voted in the full house on Wednesday, December 10, International Human Rights Day. If approved, it will proceed to the Senate.
The reasons presented by the organizations to support the bill include: the vulnerability of black youth from poor neighborhoods, the main victims of police violence; the need to investigate and hold accountable police officers involved in crimes; and the undemocratic origin of the terminology, created in 1969 during the military dictatorship.
“According to the 2014 Violence Map report, the number of blacks killed by the police for every 100,000 inhabitants in São Paulo is three time higher than among the white population. And a survey conducted by the Federal University of São Carlos shows that between 2009 and 2011, 61% of the victims killed by the police in the state of São Paulo were black,” reads an excerpt of the document.
Click here to download the document in full.
Drafted by the congressmen Paulo Teixeira, Fabio Trad, Protógenes Queiroz and Miro Teixeira, Bill 4471 determines that inquiries be opened into all cases of death caused by the police. It also requires the preservation of the crime scene, prevents the police from transporting victims and substitutes the expressions ‘act of resistance’ and ‘resistance followed by death’, which were created during the military dictatorship, for ‘death resulting from police intervention’.
“The bill is a step towards ending this ‘death sentence’ that, while banned by the Constitution, is still applied on the streets of poor neighborhoods, particularly against young black people. They are the main victims of ‘resistance’ killings – a term filled with symbolism in that it denies the most vulnerable population the right to life and to a defense,” said the lawyer Rafael Custódio, coordinator of Justice at Conectas.
Read below the seven reasons to support Bill 4471/2012:
- Undemocratic Historical Background: The procedure for filing ‘resistance’ killings emerged during the military dictatorship, in 1969, to legitimize murders committed by police officers. After the Federal Constitution of 1988, this procedure became unjustifiable and incompatible with the democratic rule of law.
- Police Violence: According to data from the Rio de Janeiro State Public Security Institute, between 2001 and 2011, more than 10,000 people were killed by the Military Police in that state alone in situations labelled ‘resistance’. The 8th Annual Report on Brazilian Public Security reveals that 11,197 deaths were caused by police interventions across Brazil between 2009 and 2013, more than the number killed in 30 years by police officers in the United States, a country with a population nearly 40% larger than Brazil’s.
- Vulnerability of Brazilian Youth: Data indicate that young people are the main victims of this police violence. Research by the Federal University of São Carlos found that, in the state of São Paulo, 78% of people killed by the police between 2009 and 2011 were between 15 and 29 years old.
- Demonstration of Structural Racism: According to the 2014 Violence Map report, the number of blacks killed by the police for every 100,000 inhabitants in São Paulo is three time higher than among the white population. And a survey conducted by the Federal University of São Carlos shows that between 2009 and 2011, 61% of the victims killed by the police in the state of São Paulo were black. The 2014 Violence Map also reveals that while the murder rate among whites in Brazil fell 24.8% between 2002 and 2012, the rate among blacks rose 38.7%.
- Reduction of Impunity: The approval of Bill 4471/12 will make the investigation of killings by police officers in the line of duty more impartial and closer to the truth, providing accountability for the excesses and gross human rights violations committed by the police, if they are proven.
- Position of the CDDPH: Resolution No. 08/2012 of the Council for the Defense of the Rights of the Human Person (CDDPH) determines the end of the expressions “act of resistance” and “resistance followed by death” and forbids the removal of bodies before the forensics have completed their examination of the scene.
- UN has already recommended ending resistance classification: The UN Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions has said that this type of classification and recording of deaths caused by police officers is unacceptable and described this procedure as “a carte blanche for police killing”.
A rally held in São Paulo last Thursday, December 4, brought together organizations, authorities and social movements in support of the approval of the proposed law. Congressman Paulo Teixeira, one of the authors of the bill, explained that the resistance classification is used to hide executions. “The fact is, of 12,000 such police reports that were analyzed, 60% did not contain any evidence of resistance. There was no gunpowder on the hands of the victim and neither did the crime scenes prove there was any resistance,” he said.
“What we want to do is investigate. An independent investigation, with the involvement of the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Public Defender’s Office. We want to prevent tampering with the crime scene and we want a very detailed forensic report.” According to Teixeira, this is the only way it will be possible to put a stop to the “license to kill” enjoyed by police officers.
During the rally, Teixeira received the support of Senator Eduardo Suplicy, São Paulo state legislator Adriano Diogo, and the São Paulo municipal human rights secretary Rogério Sotilli. Organizations such as AfroReggae, Educafro, Coletivo Arrua and the Judges for Democracy Association also attended the event.
Another motion of support for Bill 4471 came from the São Paulo Public Defender’s Office. In a report sent to Congress with suggestions for improving the text of the bill, the Citizenship and Human Rights Center affirmed that deaths classified as resistance “are rarely ever examined in any depth by the Judiciary on account of the inability to use the crime scene, or else on account of the reports filed without the minimum details necessary to determine the circumstances of these incidents”.