Partial victory

National resolution that abolishes “resistance” classification is insufficient to put a stop to executions by police

Brazil has taken a big step towards putting an end to the ‘resistance’ classification in police reports – used to record killings by police officers and that are frequently used to cover up executions, since these deaths are never investigated.

In addition to banning the use of the classification created during the military dictatorship, the joint resolution of the Higher Police Council, a body of the Federal Police, and the National Council of Civil Police Chiefs published in the Federal Gazette this Monday, January 4, establishes the procedures to be followed in cases of deaths or bodily injury caused by police officers.

According to the text of the resolution, “if the use of [police] force results in an assault on the bodily integrity or the life of the person resisting, a police inquiry must be immediately opened to determine the facts, and it shall be given priority status”. It also states that the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Public Defender’s Office must be notified of the inquiry. Moreover, weapons, bullet cases and vehicles involved in the incident must also be seized by the police officer responsible for the investigation, who must also order a forensic examination of the scene.

“The resolution represents a step forward in putting a stop to a standard police procedure that constitutes a real “death sentence” in the poor urban outskirts, particularly against black youths,” said Vivian Calderoni, a lawyer for the Justice program at Conectas. “However, we note with concern that, in its language, the resolution still promotes the mindset of the State of treating citizens as the enemy.  By using the term ‘bodily injury resulting from opposition to police intervention’ or ‘homicide resulting from opposition to police intervention’, the State assumes that there was resistance. This could preserve the mentality of covering up executions,” she added.

Still, explained Calderoni, the political message conveyed by the civil police chiefs in all Brazil’s states is that these cases need to be investigated, which is a significant breakthrough. But the resolution could have made more progress if it had required the proper isolation of the crime scene, an omission that will compromise its effectiveness.

As far as Conectas is concerned, to definitively put a stop to executions by the police, three measures are urgently needed:


    • Independence of forensic bodies: Medical forensic examinations need to be autonomous and independent from the security forces, to guarantee that they are impartial and free from pressures, particularly in cases that involve other government agents;


    • Police oversight by the Public Prosecutor’s Office: The Public Prosecutor’s Office must do more to fulfill its constitutional role in the oversight of police activity and to rigorously and accurately investigate all the circumstances surrounding the deaths caused by police officers;


    • Reform of the model of militarized policing: There is an urgent need to reform the model of militarized policing that still views citizens as potential enemies to combat. This structural reform should be underpinned by at principles: the full-cycle of police work, wherein street policing and criminal investigation are performed by the same police force; a single career path, enabling recruits to be promoted in accordance with their professional merits, until they become officers; and independent ombuds offices and internal affairs units.


Legislative bill 4471/12, which has been pending in the Lower House of Congress for two years, is broader in scope than the resolution published yesterday and it could make even more meaningful progress in putting a stop to this practice. “The approval of the bill is still essential, since there needs to be a federal law with the power to change the cruel reality in the states,” concluded Calderoni.

The bill, drafted by the congressmen Paulo Teixeira, Fabio Trad, Protógenes Queiroz and Miro Teixeira, establishes that inquiries be opened into all cases of death caused by the police. It also permits the family of the victim to accompany the investigation, requires the preservation of the crime scene and prevents the police from transporting victims

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