In 1995 in the state of Rio de Janeiro, two policies collided and caused an increase in civilian deaths by police. In an effort to stem the wave of violence the governor expanded a policy already in place to reward police bravery with bonuses. At the same time the secretary of public security, General Nilton Cerqueira implemented a program that would reward “acts of bravery” by police with a promotion. Unfortunately, any encounter between police and civilians that resulted in the death of a civilian was likely to be deemed “an act of bravery.”
Human Rights Watch examined 92 events that resulted in 179 promotions between 1995 and 1996. 72 civilians were killed. In one instance, police killed 4 people simply because they did not stop their car when ordered to pull over. According to an analysis by the press, civilian deaths increased 600% after the 1995 policies were implemented. General Nilton Cerqueira once said that “crooks are not civilians”, thus “explaining” via circular reasoning that deaths at the hands of police don’t really count as civilian deaths. Then, as if this wasn’t grotesque enough, he went on to point out since other professions rewarded productivity, why couldn’t the police.
In 2009 a policy was implemented to reduce the rate of civilian deaths. Police would be rewarded for “lower” mortality rates. Rates did go down. But while the number of deaths went down, the number of missing went up. Many suggest that the police are disposing of the bodies to keep the death counts low and ensure bonuses. In fact, in the first half of 2013, 26 million dollars was distributed to police in Rio as bonus pay. One particular case became a clarion call for justice when Amarildo de Souza, a construction worker and father of 6, went missing after being taken to the police station. 25 police and administrators are now implicated in his torture and death. Officially, he is counted among the missing. I count him as murdered by the police.