Academic journal article Ibero-americana

Obedience and Trust in the Brazilian Police from a Youth's Perspective: The Preliminary Results

Academic journal article Ibero-americana

Obedience and Trust in the Brazilian Police from a Youth's Perspective: The Preliminary Results

Article excerpt

Introduction

Police legitimacy is an important topic of criminological research, yet it has received only sporadic attention in societies where there is widespread police corruption, the position of the police is less secure, and social order is more tenuous Jackson et al. 2014. The present article - divided into four parts - is linked to a greater project entitled: "Building Democracy Daily: human rights, violence and institutional trust". The first part addresses some critical issues regarding confidence, trust, and (subsequent) obedience, looking at the relationship between those notions and youth from a theoretical perspective. The second and third parts are dedicated to the empirical part of the study, namely the methodological framework and the data analysis, respectively; while at the last part includes the limitations of the empirical research, as well as the conclusions. Nevertheless, before proceeding to the first part of this study, some important background information on institutional violence in Brazil is provided.

Brazil's police are notoriously violent. Brazil is also a country with a long history of social inequalities, racial biases, and economic disparities. Without doubt, poverty and social injustice are important factors that help explain the context in which police violence arises. This is definitely a contributing factor to Brazil's soaring rates of homicide, being amongst the highest in the world. According to official figures from the Brazilian Forum of Public Security (Fórum Brasileiro de Segurança Pública), every year Brazil's police are responsible for at least 2,000 deaths. In other words, at least six people are killed by police officers in Brazil every single day, four of which are young people aged 15 to 29 (Roque, 2014). As shocking as it seems, this figure is probably an underestimate, as most states refrain from disclosing such information. Looking at homicide figures from a comparative viewpoint, in the period 1995-2015, Säo Paulo's military police killed 11,358 people over the last 20 years.1 Simply put, the Brazilian state of Säo Paulo2 saw more police killings than there were in 50 US states. This fact alone makes the Säo Paulo state police 53 times more violent than those in the entire US.

Therefore, not coincidentally the present research study also took place in Sao Paolo - a mega-city marked by repressive police interventions that are decimating a significant part of a generation of young, (usually black), and poor men living in communities so deprived and marginalized they are hardly visible (Ciconello, 2015). At the same time, the victims' families wait from a failing criminal justice system to deliver justice and reparations for human rights violations; however, such killings are rarely investigated and brought to justice. Some of those deaths, along with other acts of violence, are caused in the course of massive raids into favelas (shanty towns). These raids are often designed to carry out legitimate police actions, such as the apprehension of criminal suspects. But in the course of these actions, police have repeatedly engaged in unjustified fatal shootings of criminal suspects and inappropriate use of excessive force. The killings by on-duty police officers are often registered as "resistance followed by death",3 which prevents independent investigations and shields the perpetrators from the civilian courts. But even when such investigations do take place, their effectiveness is not guaranteed. For example, when reviewing the status of 220 investigations of police killings opened in 2011, it was found that after four years, only one case led to a police officer being charged. As of April 2015, 183 investigations were still open (idem).

One important factor that could explain police violence in Brazil is, perhaps, the authorization for police officers in certain states to carry a second weapon while on duty, not licensed to the military police and owned by the particular officer. …

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