Rights & Security International is pleased to share our colleague organisation's report on how civil society in Brazil navigates challenges to access data on killings by police -- and killings of police. Ponte Jornalismo, an active member of the Rise Coalition, is a media outlet working to promote human rights through journalism. It aims to increase the reach of voices marginalised because of class, racial, and gender oppression, allowing different actors to come together around debates of public security and justice.
With the support of a small research grant from RSI, Ponte examined the websites of the state public-security secretariats across the country and submitted 68 information requests based on the Access to Information Law (LAI), to assess how each police body in Brazil provides information to the public on their mandate to use force. Ponte wanted to expose the current lack of transparency about public security and empower organisations working to demand accountability from Brazilian state security forces. Some of Ponte’s main findings are:
Local police forces have different ways of compiling data and more importantly, store more information than they make available to the public.
18% was the average transparency rate among 81 security bodies’ websites that Ponte examined.
Ponte’s research indicates that only four relevant bodies (5%) published information about the deaths of police officers and six (7%) about police killings.
Only 10 states voluntarily published data on both lethality (killings by officers) and victimisation (killings of officers), and these did not use standardised methods.
From the 27 responses obtained from local police entities that have limited or no published data, Ponte designed an index to examine how the state governments disclose figures about both police killings and police deaths.
In Brazil, there is still a prevalent ‘military-bureaucratic’ conception of public security, rooted in the authoritarian regimes that ruled the country over decades. Brazil’s armed forces, which should have been under tighter control, have seen their power increase and have ‘taken over police powers’ since the dictatorship, with the approval of the executive branch of government and of Congress.
Ponte’s work has highlighted how intertwined the concept of ‘public security’ is with the ‘national security’ approach, despite the separation established in Brazil’s 1988 National Constitution. National security is still being used as a ‘policy of State Defence, in line with the country’s National Security Doctrine, and not a policy of rights and defence of citizenship’. In other words, the ideology of combating internal enemies, or those that threaten order and institutional security, has been preserved in Brazil.
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