SAO PAULO, -- Carlos Minc, a Rio de Janeiro state legislator, has been pushing for mandatory body cameras in all law enforcement agencies for years. His proposal remained unproposed for many years in Rio's legislature.
The city's most brutal police operation followed. At dawn on May 6, hundreds of police officers with armored vehicles invaded Jacarezinho, a working-class neighborhood, in an attempt to capture suspected criminals. They left behind 28 bodies, all local residents.
The episode was remarkable even in a city known for violent policing. Minc claims that the bloodshed was what helped to pass the bill a few days later.
Although 22,000 cameras have been awarded to the state, it is not clear when they will be used by Rio officers.
However, Brazil's largest state, Sao Paulo has begun to experiment with body cams. Although limited data suggests that they may reduce police violence, there are mixed results from other countries who have used them.
Minc is, however, convinced that Minc was right: "If we hadn't had the Jacarezinho Massacre, the law for cameras on uniforms would have already been in effect," he said to The Associated Press.
Brazilian authorities have been considering making law enforcement officers wear body cameras for years. They also tried small-scale initiatives from time to time.
Brazil has a long history with police violence. According to the Brazilian Forum of Public Safety (an independent organization that tracks crime statistics in Brazil), more than 6,400 people were killed by police officers while on duty and off duty last year. This is more than 17 deaths per day since 2013, when the group began monitoring.
Many Brazilians are concerned about the crime themselves. Jair Bolsonaro, the winner of the last presidential election pledged that he would give police carte blanche to use lethal force.
Rio de Janeiro's governor-elect and Sao Paulo's governor-elect made similar offers; the former famously stated that police would shoot criminals in their heads.
However, the Forum of Public Safety's David Marques, project coordinator, said that the acceptance of body cameras "is an indication of a greater willingness to talk about police violence."
In June, 3,00 state police officers in Sao Paulo began using body cameras within 18 of their 120 battalions. Melina Risso is a program director at Igarape Institute in Rio. She said that some of the chosen battalions have a history of violence.
The Associated Press has obtained internal police data that shows these 18 battalions were involved with 10 deaths in the four months following 2020. This is down from 73 deaths in the same time period in 2020. One elite squad that raids suspects was the most affected. From June to September, four of its officers were killed. This is a decrease from the 23 deaths in 2020.
It is difficult to draw any conclusions due to the short timeframe, especially since overall deaths from police involvement fell in the state, but less dramatically.
Col. Robson Cabanas is a military officer who coordinates this program. He said that the goal is not to reduce police brutality and improve the image of the force; he also hopes that the cameras will provide evidence.
"Think about domestic violence. This is a hard crime Bahis Siteleri to prove. The scene will be viewed by police officers who will witness the child crying, the house being flipped upside down and sometimes an angry husband. "All of this could be used as evidence in court," Cabanas stated at the police headquarters. "Any drunken person accusing an officer being violent will be checked against these images. We will also discipline anyone who makes mistakes."
A body cam video posted by Sao Paulo police to their YouTube account shows a man who was arrested following a nighttime chase confessing that he robbed and shot several shots at pursuing officers.
Sao Paulo's experiment at a new frontier has attracted interest from many other forces from Latin America's largest country, including from Rio and Brasilia.
However, as in the U.S. the program has caused concern among rank-and file officers, who are concerned about the effects of non-stop recording.
An officer in Sao Paulo with over 20 years of experience said that police resisted approaching suspects because they were afraid videos would make them look bad. Because he was not authorized, he spoke under anonymity.
Mixed results have been obtained from studies in the U.S., Denmark, and other countries on whether these technologies reduce the use of force by officers. Brazilian security experts are skeptical that technology alone will solve police violence.
Rafael Alcadipani is a public security specialist at Getulio Vargas Foundation. He said that other reforms have reduced police killings. These include rigorous internal investigations, the use of tasers instead of guns, and the punishment of violent officers.
"In Sao Paulo police started a complicated process on multiple fronts to try and reduce the lethality of raids. Alcadipani explained that every policeman who kills someone is reviewed and the commanders are required to reply in a council.
Experts also recommend a change of mentality.
Felippe Angeli, a Brazilian public security expert from the Sou da Paz, a Sao Paulo-based prevention organization, said that Brazil has "this idea that public safety a confrontation, war not a social rights for everyone".
Angeli pointed out that the emblem for an elite Rio police force is an emblem with a skull and an embedded dagger. "Big skulls" are the armored vehicles used for raids.
Silvia Ramos is the coordinator of the Network of Security Observatoryies. She expressed doubts that the cameras would reduce the number of police killings. Her network includes watchdog groups from seven states, including Rio and Sao Paulo.
Ramos stated that Jacarezinho was where the bodies were found. Ramos added that the authorities supported the raid and placed a seal of (five-year) protection on the investigation.
"The cameras by magic wouldn't have caused a change of attitude among the officers."