There is no standard definition for exactly what police do (Monjardet 2003). Their activities vary depending on context and institutional arrangement. Despite these differences, they face the same difficulties when the subject is use of force, since they wield the power of the state within their respective territories. Arrangements where prevention dominates normally indicate a certain advance in a ‘civilizing process’ (Elias 1994) whereas repression is a sign that something has gone awry in society, in the police institution, or both. However, the challenge for police in a democratic state is to strike the right balance between legitimate coercion and prevention. Given effective management, under a modern conception of police, legitimacy is the most precious attribute. The more legitimate the police are perceived to be, the lower the need for physical force, their primary resource.
This is legitimacy in the political sense, based on persuasion through consensus building and consideration of all stakeholders (Hanah Arendt 2007; Aguiar 2008). In this sense, the police that we want to legitimize must remain close to the parties affected, seeking consensus even when there are differences. For the purpose of this paper, ‘approximation’ refers to state actions which aim at this legitimacy and which include society as a participant in the development of public policies. ‘Segregation’ on the other hand refers not only to actions which exclude, but to inaction due to the absence of any public policies. Approximation does not necessarily mean physical proximity, but a convergence of interests especially in a civilized context in which the main aim is non-violence, that is, peace.
Previous research provides numerous examples of this horizontal and respectful approximation to which I refer to in the present article. As for public security, Skolnick & Bailey (2002) have analysed community policing and other varieties such as proximity and problem solving policing in many countries. Examples of this stance can be found in other political settings too. For instance, Santos (2005) shows good practices of participatory democracy as an alternative to representative democracy, which is still dominant and practiced in many countries, especially in the peripheral ones. With regard to Brazil, the author mentions the Participatory Budget3 in Belo Horizonte and Porto Alegre (Santos 2005: 561–592). On the other hand, vertical public policies are examples of a deliberate segregation of communities by the state. For example, one can cite policies addressed at ‘silent’ community residents, where there is no room for dialogue or a possibility of effective participation and resolution of conflicts, and these policies unfortunately are the reality in most Brazilian favelas. A sociological study carried out already in the 1970s in the favela of Jacarezinho in Rio de Janeiro (Santos 1977) shows that these old problems are reproduced even today. Santos shows how people in these deliberately segregated spaces resorted to solving their conflicts informally, either because they did not believe in formal state institutions or because these institutions were indeed not capable of dealing with their conflicts. Therefore, instead of a naturalization of a belief in modern equality, what happened was a naturalization of structural inequality which was exacerbated by this historical segregation.
By considering what actually happens in the field we can see to what extent this ideal is actually achieved by institutions. Whether legitimacy is pursued through segregation or approximation, policy choices depend on context. In the case of Rio de Janeiro, sociopolitical, historical and economic complexities, which would be a challenge for any police force in the world, provide clues to the historical approach of segregation. The natural wonders of a ‘Marvelous City’ contrast with the structural inequalities, wavering democracy and a patchwork social geography of a ‘Segregated City’ (Leite 2000).4 For example, Gávea, an upper-middle-class neighborhood in the southern zone of the city, with the state’s highest Human Development Index (HDI) score (and one of the highest in the country), is located adjacent to Rocinha, Brazil’s largest favela, which has one of the lowest.
These contrasts also represent a potential for conflict which become evident when they are intensified by discourses based on hate and fear. To better understand policy choices, not only must the practices that bring them about be investigated, but also the ‘collective representations’5 that direct them. Up until now a ‘myth of fear,’ based on interactions in contexts where risk is strongly perceived, predominate, even if there is no real significant risk (Borges 2012). The myths about the favela, which primarily after ‘consolidation,’6 were based on fear of a different and unknown ‘other,’ transformed the favela into a natural place for violence and criminal activity, consequently setting off violent reactions from society and the state, in their different dimensions: physical, symbolic and structural (Souza e Silva 2010). This ‘criminalization of poverty,’ as Wacquant (2001) has put it has lead to Brazil having the fourth largest prison population in the world, made up largely from black and brown favela residents without regular employment, who tend to be drug users or members of the drug trade. This has also led to segregation, particularly in relation to favelas, which are seen as zones of danger. This resulted in the segregation of Rio de Janeiro, and the widespread notion of the favela as a dangerous place.
This trend appears now to be reversing itself with the Pacifying Police Units (UPPs) and the benefits have already been perceived and measured (IBPS 2009; Cano 2012; CESec 2012, 2013; Rodrigues and Siqueira). They are accompanied by great expectations. However, there is still concern over violence, political corruption and armed conflict. When combined with the absence or lack of social policies and the slow process of urbanization, this raises uncertainty about the sustainability of public policy (IBPS 2009; Machado da Silva 2010; Cano 2012). The question that one must ask here is: Is this change permanent or just another temporary solution to segregation?
War and peace: Representations and practices in public security policies
To be able to talk about peace in Rio de Janeiro, one must understand a little about the ‘war’ over the last three decades. It is not a war, in the conventional political sense of the word, but an imagined one; socially constructed ideas that operate practices that, in turn, reinforce this very image, producing a spiral of meanings that take hold according to the interests at play (Bourdieu 2005).
During this period a specific conflict emerged in Rio de Janeiro between the police and the favelas under the pretext that there was organized crime operating in these spaces, notably drug trafficking. The results, we all know: poverty foretold by the neglect of the state, growing violence and, instead of the end of drug trafficking, a strengthened drug economy and increased consumption. In its wake came higher murder rates, as well as an increase in police violence and extortion.
In the 1980s, with the political transition and greater availability of official statistics, Brazilian society began to take note of its many problems. Expressions like ‘lost decade,’ ‘sky-high prices,’ ‘runaway inflation’ and ‘escalation in violence,’ were often used, indicating this widespread perception. It is from that time onward that public security became important, not only because of the heightened perception of violence, but also due to the real increases in crime rates.
The end of the Cold War did not alleviate tensions between the state and society in Rio de Janeiro, on the contrary, they increased. Against the backdrop of the ‘war on drugs’ and globalization of crime, repression became focused, allowing the media to identify a new threat to society emanating from the favela: the new ‘dangerous classes’ (Coimbra 2001).
Even with re-democratization, the concept of public safety was still vague and confused with national security. Often generals would assume responsibility for public security in the states, viewing the problem of crime from an ideological perspective of national security. In this sense, the work of General Nilton Cerqueira7 as Secretary of Public Safety for the state was emblematic. The perception was that crime spread due to the lenience of leftist policies, in this case those of former Governor Leonel Brizola.8 Cerqueira responded by creating a financial reward for ‘acts of bravery’ for policemen who risked their lives while fighting crime, soon thereafter known as the ‘Wild West bonus’ because it encouraged the death of the enemy9 (Cano 2003). The result was one of the harshest and bloodiest repressions the state had ever experienced, and an increase in murder rates and controversial justifications over resisting arrest.10 It is no coincidence that Cerqueira’s time as head of Public Security (1995–1998) resulted in the highest murder rates in the history of the state. In 1995, the murder rate within Rio state peaked, with 61.8 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, whereas in 1997 the capital’s murder rate reached a record of 53.7 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants.11
It is likely that the media exaggerated in its coverage, displaying a scenario riddled with stray bullets and military weapons, but the fact is that this was one of the country’s most violent episodes. The image of drug traffickers wielding military-style weapons from atop their territories, usurped from the state, caused society to recoil and showed the ineffectiveness of the police against increasingly powerful ‘organized crime.’ The solution was then to arm the police for ‘war,’ which resulted in the greatest arms race in the history of the state.12 ‘War’ metaphors were used in the construction of discourses that gave the impression of a real war, which Michel Foucault would characterize as ‘discursive practices’ (Foucault 2007). While drug traffickers used the favela as their ‘military HQs,’ officials transformed it into a ‘theater of operations,’ establishing their own ‘war’ based on a ‘war on drugs,’ which at that time had already been transformed into a moral crusade of global proportions.13
It is likely that many of the ‘acts of bravery’ recognized through the ‘Wild West bonus’ were used to officially record deaths that were in fact extrajudicial killings, like those that occurred in 1993 in the ‘Massacre at Vigário Geral.’ Vigário Geral is a favela in the northern zone of the city, where 21 residents were cruelly executed. Investigations suggest the motive was the breach of a pact of corruption between police and local drug traffickers, who on the previous evening had ambushed a police car and killed all of its occupants, including the leader of a rival group. Despite the inability of the criminal justice system to try and convict all those involved, some clues emerged that allow us to understand how the criminal underworld works, primarily when ‘war’ fuels a criminal market for extortion. The key witness, who had been an informant for both of the sides of the dispute, clearly identified the ‘spoils of war’ as a natural incentive to run his own business.
Often the deliberate segregation of the favela produces a vacuum where alternative types of survival and social organization emerge whose frontiers, separating the moral fields of formality/informality and legality/illegality, are tenuous and flexible. They contain a mix of activities of an underground economy that include motorcycle taxis, vans, clandestine cable TV providers or ‘gatonet,’ clandestine electrical connections or ‘gatos,’ street cleaning, street parties or ‘bailes funk,’ but also markets for drugs, weapons and the fencing of goods or ‘robauto.’ As activities that are invisible and untaxed by the state, they are ripe for criminal activity that generally goes beyond the original creators, generating networks of corruption and violence used both by criminals and the clandestine police.
Given this situation and an archaic police model, created within a hierarchical and segregationist context where it is difficult to determine who should be controlled or repressed, many favelas have been violently fought over, occupied and transformed into fortifications to protect the illegal businesses), much to the despair of favela residents. As the volume of transactions and working capital grow, the corruption and violence needed to maintain the businesses also grow.
In this context, where drug traffickers and clandestine police or militias find common objectives, reproducing practically the same factional logic for economic purposes, the war ends up maintaining the ideal invisibility for the proliferation of violent illegal markets, far from the control of the state and the fearful eyes of society. The police model, therefore, adapted itself well to the historical segregation promoted by the state and its policies for verticalized social control, where the affected communities had been the victims.
Despite this tendency towards segregation, there have been isolated attempts at approximation. However, these were not systematic and hardly changed anything, especially in the face of a global criminality that was affecting the reality of Rio de Janeiro ever more, particularly in favelas.14 One of the first initiatives was the CIPOC (Centro Integrado de Policiamento Comunitário or Centre for Community Policing) in the favela Cidade de Deus, which was based on American models of community policing, and which combined social policies with public security. The CIPOC was the beginning of what was later to become the UPPs. In the meantime, however, there has been no progress regarding a systematic approximation strategy to prevent violence and crime. Nor has there been support from the political community to follow up these initiatives, which simply did not extend beyond the involvement of the police. Attempts at approximation were therefore subverted by a lack of understanding of the new global crime scenario, and a lack of political support and critical assessment of policies which had been copied from contexts different from our own. Approximation was seen as naïve and ineffective against the fire power of the drug traffickers, which—with the help of the media—was expanding visibly within favelas.
When the first UPP emerged, no one believed there was an alternative to policing by waging ‘war.’ As the program progressed, people began to believe more in its potential.15 This freed up a symbolic space where repressive ideologies were being fomented. It is possible that the UPPs have helped to deconstruct the myths about the favela, establishing approximation where before there was just a theater of operations. This is why pacification, which is still incipient, precarious, and provisional in some aspects, represents a dramatic improvement on the path to public security; an audacious movement of approximation in the exact place where the ‘war’ was naturalized. The question is whether it can be sustained for the long term as an approximation policy.
The process of pacification currently underway in Rio de Janeiro is being conducted by the State Secretary of Public Safety (SESEG),16 through the installation of the UPPs in areas under the control of violent armed groups.17 It began in 2008 with the occupation by the Military Police of the favela Santa Marta, in Botafogo, in the southern zone of Rio. The following year it would become the state’s first UPP.
Although it was not initially christened a UPP, because the idea had not yet become a programme as it is today, the idea was that the police would remain and integrate with the local community: a completely unprecedented approach.
The experience gained from previous approximation efforts by the Military Police and some alignment around the idea of public safety with citizenship on different levels of government were fundamental to the progress of the occupations. After the city’s third UPP was inaugurated18 and the initiative was received positively by society, a bolder plan was developed. Today there are 37 UPPs, with 9,073 Military Police in 252 favelas; eight in the southern zone, 23 in the northern zone, two in the western zone, three in the center of the city and one outside the state capital, inaugurated recently in the favela Mangueirinha, in the city of Duque de Caxias.19 SESEG’s goal is to have least 40 UPPs and 12,500 military policemen in place by the end of 2014. No other community policing programme20 in the world can compare.
Although institutionally still precarious, the UPP is equivalent to, within the organizational structure of the Military Police of the State of Rio de Janeiro (PMERJ), a military company displaced from its original headquarters, which is the battalion. It receives administrative support from the battalion of the area where it is located, while responsibility for operations falls to the Pacification Police Coordinator, created in the same executive order that provided the first institutional outline for the UPP.21 Local operational command is exercised by a captain, who is assisted by other officials but, depending on the size, staff and strategic importance, the unit could be commanded by a major. The services are normally carried out by young soldiers, who after training are sent directly to the UPP where they are supervised by corporals, sergeants and occasionally lieutenants. Their practices distinguish them, in theory, from the conventional policing units and controversial police operations, which in recent decades have focused on these areas of great social vulnerability. The proposal is—or should be—to enter and remain there practicing so-called ‘proximity policing’ which, in broad terms, uses the existing local solidarity networks to jointly build a safe environment.
The programme uses an occupation plan that is divided into four distinct phases, starting with an initial eminently military intervention, until the installation of the UPP itself. After the tactical intervention (phase I), there is a period of stabilization (phase II), while awaiting the right moment for the arrival of the UPP (phase III), at which time monitoring and evaluation (phase IV) should be carried out simultaneously. Despite all of these specifications about the preparations of the environment for the arrival of the UPP, nowhere in the plan are there any details on how ‘proximity’ should be achieved. The plan, therefore, is basically a military occupation, since it is clear that its greatest concern is with the initial phases (I and II), to the detriment of the latter phases. This gap should have been filled by the Public Security Institute (ISP) through the creation of a ‘Pacification Police Programme,’ as provided for in the executive order that structured the UPP. However, it has yet to be addressed.22
On the one hand the UPP maintains a sophisticated media strategy (see Mello 2010) in order to deconstruct ‘war’ and consequently construct ‘peace,’ which distinguishes it from other previous ‘proximity policing’ initiatives. However, the same effort is not replicated in other aspects of the project, such as its institutional structure, training of its members, investment in digital security and information technology. This reveals negligence precisely where the proposal was to be different: the ability to promote proximity.
The programme has also been criticized because of the fact that occupations happened mainly in favelas that were dominated by drug dealers and not by militias. In practice, the tactics for pacification are still based on a logic of fighting drug trafficking, though now at least with greater regulatory focus. In other words, the de facto war requires a war to retake the fortified territories.
In this way, pacification is presented as an open-ended approximation process, whose construction also depends on the daily practices of its participants. We can find many references that inspire them, in both official and unofficial discourse, and representations that populate the collective imagination of police, as we will see further ahead.
Despite local specificities, research suggests that the favelas that have been occupied by the UPPs have certain features in common (Cano 2012; Rodrigues and Siqueira 2012; CESeC 2010, 2012 & 2013) among them: the disappearance of visible drug trafficking, weapons of war and traumatic police incursions, and a drastic reduction in gunfights, stray bullets, intentional homicides (primarily those that resulted from police activity) and also greater social control over the police, local criminal activity and greater freedom of movement for residents. On the other hand, there are more reports of non-lethal violence, such as bodily harm, threats, fights and rapes, as well as defiance of authority and conflict in families and between neighbors.23
A reasonable explanation for the rise in the number of reports of defiance of authority is the perception by those who work in a UPP of greater social control over their activities (CESeC 2010, 2012). The police, because they feel more controlled, policemen begin to register the conflicts they have with residents as defiance of authority in order to protect themselves from future disciplinary action. This can also occur out of a lack of knowing how to deal with issues that emerge from the new model, such as, for example, disturbing the peace and the conflicting use of public spaces (CESeC 2013; Cano 2012). The police abuses and/or the reaction of some residents to the authority of the state shows a crisis of legitimacy. This is why these reports are being monitored by the CPP, for lack of a better indicator.
Another interesting fact is that arrests for drug trafficking have increased, even though drug trafficking is less visible. Seizures of weapons have also increased, primarily fearsome large-caliber weapons used previously in violent territorial disputes. With regard to drug seizures, if before they were sporadic, but in large amounts, with the UPPs they have become more frequent, in smaller amounts being seized. This has led to a less visible and less violent level of drug trafficking, which the police have characterized as ‘ant-like.’
The increase in non-lethal crime has been generally attributed to a combination of factors, such as a burgeoning demand which was previously repressed by criminal control now replaced by informal mechanisms of conflict resolution, the presence of police and greater credibility of state agencies. The fact is that, although homicides have fallen, levels of ‘violent sociability’ persist (Machado da Silva 2009). Changing this requires appropriate conflict mediation approaches.
One fact is worth mentioning: the profile of those involved in these non-lethal violent incidents, which are now more widely reported, appears to coincide with that of the victims and perpetrators of homicides that predominated earlier. Generally, they are young black males, ranging in age from 18 to 29. Similarly, those responsible for incidents of resistance, defiance of authority and disobedience, also fit this same profile. Given that most of the police at the UPP are also in this age range, it can be thought of as a specific male generational conflict between young policeman and young local residents. Alba Zaluar suggests that an ‘ethos of hyper-masculinity’ can lead ‘some young people of the male sex to risk their lives in drug trafficking in search of recognition through the use of fear’ (Zaluar 2009). Something similar appears to occur in the eminently military education of PMERJ cadets, which is more focused on the logic of ‘war’ (Silva 2011). Both groups experience a virile and violent socialization during the social construction of their respective identities, and are at odds with each other from that time onward. On one side are those who, in theory, assimilate what Max Weber defined as the ‘legitimate violence’ of the state, and on the other, those that, a contrario sensu, internalize the illegitimate violence, rejecting Weber’s ‘rational-legal authority’ (Weber 1999).
Although these clues point to important aspects of pacification to be considered in carrying out the project, they lack detailed comprehensive research. In practice, approximation, in its many paths and contexts, generates not only conflict, but also important lessons which deserve to be systematized.
In the absence of a systematic pacification programme in the true sense of the word, with concrete goals, concepts, strategies and above all adequate tools for monitoring and assessment, pacification can instead be said to be based on often ambiguous official discourses, some academic research, a timid standardization and on a day-by-day learning process through the intuition and improvisation of the people who are directly involved in the programme.
There has been a radical shift in the public security rhetoric of the state regarding the fight against organized crime in favelas. This can be perceived in the official discourses of the officials and managers of the Pacification programme, notably the governemnet, SESEG and police agencies, as well as in media output. Instead of harsh repression, a hallmark of the 1990s, the police have now begun, with the UPPs, to prioritize the prevention of violence and crime; to establish—or reestablish—relations based on trust with the community and to jointly build effective community networks capable of producing local safety.
However, increasingly frequent problems appear to reveal a certain distance between the model proposed in these discourses and what is actually practiced in the UPPs. It should be noted that, although the UPP does not have a set public policy in the formal sense, it is under construction, with each unit presenting different circumstances, some more, and others less like the model proclaimed in the official discourses. Nevertheless, this does not invalidate it as a successful policy. Its results are more promising than those of the ‘war on drugs.’
Pacification and approximation can also be presumed based on these daily practices and the representations that direct them. But, whatever the case, approximation or segregation, the ‘favela’ has invariably been the stage for police operations, despite the conceptual controversies that it has stirred up (Ramos & Paiva 2007). The official justification, in the case of the UPPs, appears to point to more than one of the representations of the favela: the need to re-integrate it with the rest of the city to interrupt the cycle of violence that appears to be generated from its territorial dynamics. It is evident that, despite these expectations, the UPP will not resolve the problems of public security of the state by operating in the favelas, as some might imagine. To believe in this is to insist on a simplistic view of public safety that reduces it to an eminently police problem based on the myths about the favela, ignoring fundamental participants outside the focus of its problems, including those of the criminal justice system. Weapons and drugs, for example, require specific investigations that are not limited to state territory and that go beyond the mandate of the military police.
The gap in the UPP programme gives it a certain practical plasticity, leaving it open to be built day-by-day, which in the beginning benefited from the contribution of participants that normally would not have done so in the case of a formal construction, such as local leaders and police. But today, with the expansion of the programme, this is more of a threat than an opportunity for strategic management.
This gap is perceived as having been filled by a broad framework of know-how ranging from ‘shoot-beat-and-bomb,’ an expression used to refer to police operations based on the logic of war, to superficial and unworkable ‘nice guy policing,’ which sees the UPP as an opportunity to improve the image of the police. It is likely that the problems that currently face the UPPs, primarily the cases of deviations and arbitrary use of force, have to do with this poor managerial control.
Regardless of the meaning that the term ‘community’ may evoke, each favela presents a different set of circumstances. Even a single favela is a mosaic of internal stratifications, physical and symbolic borders, histories and specific needs. The process of pacification depends on many factors, but, primarily, on the participation of local leaders, police and residents, and an understanding of this dynamic to build consensus.
Pacification unveils novelties for a police force that in recent decades has focused almost exclusively on drug trafficking. Bias and stigmatizing prejudice often make it impossible for the police to see the range of relations and participants that make up local structures. Because of biased perceptions, very often, the presence of drug trafficking is morally contaminating for those who have to live with it on a daily basis. This is a mistake that needs to be corrected so that efforts at ‘approximation’ are not compromised. What we see is that the police still concentrate primarily on drug trafficking, despite the changes that have occurred in the criminal dynamic as a result of the UPP. Most of the time they report incidents related to drug trafficking to the Coordinator’s Office for the Pacification Police.24 However, incidents recorded by the police stations, entered into the database of the Institute of Public Safety (ISP), show a considerable increase in other types of conflict that could be key to understanding this process. Most of them fall outside the focus produced by structures of an old paradigm.
There is a clear need for proper training so that the police can better understand this ‘field of disputes’ in which it has become a participant (Grynzspan 2004). The risk is when, inadvertently, they produce conflicts that are not conducive to the objectives of pacification. There are new participants like NGOs, companies, social programmes, homeowner associations, the administrative region and more recently, militias. But, somehow drug trafficking ends up receiving more attention than the others.
It must be understood that each of these participants represents complex institutions. Drug trafficking, for example, has various specialties and divisions of social work which are poorly understood. Without this understanding, it is likely that the UPP police will still view the favela through their understanding about favelas, where this illegal and violent market may be over or underestimated. For a more realistic view, one must understand the dynamics, structures of loyalty and hierarchies in a more systematic manner.
For example, not all who take part in drug trafficking receive an equal share of the spoils, like the public might imagine based on reports from the media. When the media discusses drug trafficking, increasing the criminal prestige of the ‘owners of the favela,’ it also indirectly curtails their free movement in the formal city. With the UPPs, their mobility is even further restricted and some are arrested or flee to other hiding places—that are quickly disappearing due to the pacification. A proper understanding of the dynamics and more effective cooperation with other participants would make the UPP more effective and, consequently, improve public security.
There have been cases of drug dealers who were forced to leave their territorial domains after occupation, but who still tried to maintain control of their criminal operations through intimidation from a distance. At times there have been more extreme acts of violence, such as shootings and attempted murder between opponents. Therefore even despite effective police work in an area, violent acts orchestrated by those who fear losing their local hegemonic control, are likely to occur. Such seemingly impulsive behaviour in reality indicates some calculation, especially when they occur in UPPs where approximation is well underway and where the loss of control could lead to considerable financial losses for the drug dealers.
The risk of not understanding these dynamics in a more realistic way is that apart from an insensitivity towards the community, the older structures of the former policing model will be reproduced in these contexts. Very often the reaction of the police, because it cannot resist the tempation to resort to old methods, is too impulsive, thereby undoing the success that has already been achieved through pacification. However, when the police form networks of trust with other participants, this brings tranquility to their work environment and reduces the risk of them returning to old habits. To get to this stage a mutual humanizing learning process must take place between favela residents and the police. This enables a deconstruction of the myths about the favela in practice. However, patience is necessary. In contrast, pure and simple repression, appears quickly and tends to destroy these local networks to the disadvantage of the police, generating segregation and a host of related problems.
Even without an institutional pedagogical plan, it is important to encourage co-operation and practical understanding between the police and community residents, aiming in this way at gradually destabilising the criminal structure of the area. Although a democratic way of negotiation and mitigation of differences might still be unfamiliar to professionals who are never used to even hearing about these methods, it is crucial to maintain this strategy in order to reach the goals of pacification. It is also important to build an institutional body of knowledge about these relationships and the different interests at play in order to be able act strategically in the complex battlefield of the favelas. In the absence of this institutional knowledge building, there is a greater risk that obtained information will be spread by policemen in a clandestine fashion.
Some of the violent conflicts between police officers and criminals suggest that, even with the presence of a UPP, some police officers, for whom ‘war’ is a particularised means instead of an end in itself may still resort to old criminal practices. In such cases, the process of approximation is jeopardised not by a lack of proper training of police officers or an appropriate understanding of the local structures. On the contrary, the process is damaged by a mere localised understanding of these structures that maintain illegal businesses which thrive in the absence of formal mechanisms of control. In the UPPs where these diversions were detected, it was clear that the project stagnated or even receded due to the distrust of the local population, and this happened even when the criminals had been arrested.
Both the emotional ‘war,’ the product of a moralist state authoritarianism that pits good against evil, and the rational ‘war,’ designed to provide clandestine profits through the sale of ‘political merchandise,’ (Misse 1999) are predatory and fritter away the capital of approximation, which is its legitimacy. It is important that this threat be continually monitored. To do so, it is necessary to invest in proactive and reactive correction so that the objectives of pacification are quickly achieved. Although greater informal control is perceived over police activity, the lack of appropriate technology and, many times, the authoritarian and arrogant culture that infests many of our institutions (including the police) has stymied a quick institutional response. There is no systemized control of police activities; there are not enough cameras, data or information systems to monitor predatory activity and aid in legitimate approximation.
Relations with other actors
The favela has many different meanings and uses, depending on the perspectives and the interests of the actors who have a stake in this ‘battlefield’ (Grynszpan 2004). In general, the structures of this field are different depending on the favela, but some points in common enable us to observe important trends for the planning of approximation.
In this sense, interaction with participants, aimed at convergence of interests, has been fundamental. However, the situation often changes depending on individual capacity and whether leaders understand their roles. Participants, such as the Residents Associations, NGOs, social programmes, private companies, the administrative region and young people, are either in favor or against the new participant: the UPP. Depending on the UPP’s approach and the capacity for coordination, these interactions with participants can result in cooperation or conflict. The greatest risk is that the police will eventually replace drug traffickers as the new ‘owners of the favela’ (Cano 2012).
In a field as complex and dynamic as the favela, synergy has to be developed on a daily basis in order to reach consensus between the different and divergent parties at play. The question is knowing up to what point these parties are capable of working within this idea. Since the training of the military police is still based on eminently military models rather than more modern training methods (Silva 2011), the development of individual leadership in a dialogic scenario that would be necessary for peace is not prioritized. Skills such as hearing, listening, and being perceptive are almost annihilated in the formation of military discipline and obedience. However, these are absolutely necessary and should be encouraged through this dialogic paradigm which aims at the construction of peace. Unfortunately, this is not happening. Therefore the programme will be dependent mostly on the talent and intuition of individual officers and on those who are innate leaders, when it could also be guided by other, adequately trained and improved, types of leadership. In some UPPs, there is room for dialogue and legitimate police actions, whereas in others there is only a physical police presence without any concern for legitimisation (CESeC 2013; Cano 2012). Generally, what happens and when it happens is an intuitive approximation with those other actors who have managed to maintain the programme with a certain coherence. However, because of a lack of proper understanding, this often ends up being more chaotic than effective, leading to conflicts and unnecessary damage to the programme.
This is the case, for example, with regard to the open-air dances or bailes funk and other cultural projects created by young participants. Often, due to negative perceptions, these events are seen as drug trafficking projects and are not used as possible channels for approximation with a group that, as we have seen, is key to the prevention of violence and, consequently, to the process of peace.
Therefore, the main factors that still contribute to strategic errors are: a lack of understanding and proactivity needed for approximation due to the lack of appropriate specific training; the old police structures still producing the ‘war’ mentality; the resistance to pacification from young policemen who, with their ‘ethos of hyper-masculinity,’ are more receptive to the adrenalin provided by the reactive model of policing than the model of peace; and the individual interest in the benefits that predatory war can offer.
For each of these problems there should be an institutional solution. Solutions, however, are not forthcoming. Perhaps it is necessary to rethink the SESEG’s prioritization of recent graduates for the UPPs, in favor of those truly committed and trained for pacification.
A special pedagogical training project for UPP policemen was requested by CPP to SESEG, which so far has not been implemented in the same way as the Pacifying Police Programme. At that time, the project had been designed as an urgent and provisional solution for the problem of the professional profile of the UPP, which must be governed by the concept of ‘proximity policing’ and which is entirely different from conventional policing methods. In practical terms, this training course would offer a solution for the UPP problem, but not for the military police as a whole. Therefore the UPP should be seen as a pilot project, in which all the necessary changes for the police as a whole should be first implemented, so that the pacification programme can move forward. Unfortunately, this strategy to reform the police has been discarded by SESEG. Nevertheless, since 2013 the PMERJ has been developing a more comprehensive strategic reconfiguration project for the UPPs as well as the entire police force with the aim of implementing ‘proximity policing’ throughout Rio state by 2016. The project also has a specific strategic action plan to change the entire educational system, also by 2016. However, this seems too long for a process which was begun in 2009 and is already outdated and in urgent need of adaptation.
Today, basic police education in the Center for Education and Improvement of Garrisons (CFAP) continues in practically the same way since before the start of pacification. The only difference is there is a provisional internship of the pacification police, which was improvised by the CPP to reduce the impact of a war-like education and prepare policemen for the situations they would encounter in the favelas.
UPPs represents a transition from the traditional highly reactive model of policing to a modern proactive model based on the prevention of violence and crime. It is not a ready-made project, but one under construction, and which still depends much on individual skill and local leadership both from policemen and other key participants. This makes it variable and inconstant. Nevertheless, UPPs have produced many positive outcomes. The main one is the ‘cease-fire’ (Rodrigues and Siqueira 2012) resulting regaining territorial control of the most dangerous favelas.
Change always brings crisis and rupture where the old paradigm clashes with the new; this forms a normal part of the transition process. However, the lack of clearly defined objectives leads to uncertainties, not only for society as a whole but also for the police force involved in the process. The biggest problem is when due to a lack of systematic measures, crises are interpreted as a failure of the whole pacification project, especially when the temptation to resort to old practices is not resisted. These practices result in the opposite of approximation, leading to segregation and all its predatory effects. Due to this segregation, acts of violence emerge; not only state violence, which appeals to authoritarians and police ‘warriors,’ but above all a secret and instrumental violence, which creates an ideal environment for a wide range of underground criminal activities.
There is still much to be done to secure a sustainable peace. There is also an immense social divide due to the historical segregation that needs to be quickly reversed so that these informal spaces can finally be minimized. These are not just priorities for the police, but for an entire society that longs for pacification.
The facts established in quantitative and qualitative research are helpful, but it is important to create indicators suitably adjusted to the program to ensure good management through constant and effective monitoring. Approximation and prevention indicators are not easy to create, primarily when there is no systemized collection of data or even appropriate digital systems. For this reason SESEG hired a specialized consultancy, but its product needs to be made available to managers as quickly as possible.
It is important to invest in digital and social technology that provides support for pacification. If this does not happen, it will be just another project based on a vast amount of human resources, but not necessarily on the quality and training of these resources. Technologies are urgently needed for social prevention and public security that enable rationalization of these resources; for the gathering of information, systematization and analysis of data on prevention activities that enable effective planning, with analyses of correlations between what is done, the intended outcome and what is actually achieved.
Today these non-criminal data are still invisible to the institution for various reasons, but primarily due to inadequate police structure. An urgent reform of police institutions is therefore necessary. Otherwise, the risk of replicating previous models remains high. To reduce this risk, ambiguities must be removed from official discourses, and what is institutionally desired from the process of pacification must be decided. To do this, it is necessary to first state and understand what a UPP actually is. The executive order that provided the minimum structure is still provisory, addressing specifically the initial war, which although necessary, cannot be seen as an end in itself, but rather as a beginning of a peace to be consolidated in the medium to long term.
If this is not the objective, a wider reform of police forces might not even be needed, since the issue can be solved with more of the same. In this case, our concern is no longer quality, but quantity; the number of police officers needed to reach the ‘goals of the programme,’ and not the quality of these resources. These goals have been reached to a reasonable degree through an accelerated ‘production of’ police officers, which however causes institutional, operational and mostly emotional issues to the ones who try to carry out pacification in a coherent manner. Therefore, the objective should be quality.
It is important to understand that the UPP alone will not resolve the complex problems of public safety, despite the expectation created in the media that it can. The exclusive focus on the favela may be a signal that the old representations are being reproduced, which probably obfuscates the perception of a large part of public security problems. It is necessary to consider that, with the ‘democratic invasion’ of the 1990s not only the forces of the ‘criminal economy’ of drug trafficking were freed (Napoleoni 2010), but also the forces of silent crime, less visible and violent, which probably impacts other environments of Rio de Janeiro (not just the favela), without attracting so much attention.
The media’s focus on the UPP is an example of the paradox of nonviolent crime, despite being equally predatory, and enabling the well-known and feared players of the favela to continue. Other important participants, including the criminal justice system itself, also end up overshadowed, which in the end requires even more from the UPPs.
If ‘war’ was socially constructed even before it actually existed, nowadays ‘peace’ is constructed through a sophisticated strategy of media communication. However, it is about time this so-called “peace” became an effective and efficient peace. Otherwise, this will only be an isolated, if more far-ranging, measure, with more sophisticated media appeal and with more political involvement, but still only yet another story of segregation among the many we have seen so far. Public policies cannot survive on goodwill alone.