If a civilian is involved in an act that results in the death of another person, a murder investigation is opened. When the offender is a police officer, however, it is common for them to file ‘resisting arrest reports’, in which they claim that the cause was ‘resistance followed by death’. On the date that Brazilians celebrate Black Awareness Day, it is worth recalling that ‘resisting arrest reports’ serve to cover up a harsh reality: executions perpetrated by the police end up being recorded under a name that disguises the brutality and implies that the death was caused by some conflict or resistance. The result is that these deaths, generally involving young black male victims, are more often than not shelved without investigation.
Legislative Bill No. 4,471/2012, which puts an end to these reports, has been pending in the lower house of Congress since 2012. The bill was drafted in partnership with social movements and human rights organizations and it creates a number of procedures for preserving the crime scene and conducting the proper forensic work. It also determines that inquiries be opened to investigate the cases and it bans the transportation of victims involved in ‘confrontations’ with the police, who must instead call in the specialized emergency services.
If approved, the bill will become a federal law and all Brazilian states will be required to comply. The expected result would be broader control over police activities and, subsequently, a substantial reduction in the number of executions committed by officers.
The campaign NOVEMBER FOR LIFE!, run by the National Youth Council (Conjuve), is intended to step up the pressure for an end to this mechanism, which was created in 1969 during the most brutal phase of the military dictatorship.
Research conducted at the Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCar), using official data, reveals that the number of blacks killed by the police for every 100,000 inhabitants in São Paulo is three time higher than the number for the white population. The data reveal that 61% of the victims in the state are black, 97% are men and 77% are aged between 15 and 29, i.e. most victims of executions by the police are young black males.
According to recent statistics, on-duty military police in the city of São Paulo killed more people in the first six months of 2014 than in the whole of 2013.
Official data also reveal that there were 163 deaths resulting from police intervention from January to June of 2014 in the city, an increase of 147% compared to the 66 deaths by on-duty military police officers registered in the first six months of 2013.
In 2011, in the states of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro alone, 804 people were killed in alleged conflicts with the police, in incidents classified as ‘resisting arrest’.
Putting an end to these reports will be an important historic step, although other measures will also be necessary. These include: the abolition of military justice so the trial of crimes committed by police officers can follow the same procedure as crimes committed by civilians; the independence of forensic exams; and the reform of the police forces.