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Police officers responsible for unlawful killings in Rio and São Paulo are rarely brought to justice.Although there has recently been some important progress in the reining of certain high-profile militias in Rio as well as in the arrest of several death squad members in São Paulo, impunity for extrajudicial executions committed by police officers remains the norm.In Rio, they appear to have had virtually no impact at all.The principal reason these reform measures have fallen short is that they have not tackled the fundamental issue of accountability.Criminal justice officials, including the attorneys general of both states, recognize that unlawful police killings are a serious problem.Several key public prosecutors insist that extrajudicial executions and subsequent cover ups are commonplace.
In Rio, these heavily-armed gangs effectively control hundreds of neighborhoods and are largely responsible for the metropolitan region having one of the highest homicide rates in the hemisphere.
While many factors may contribute to this chronic impunity, one in particular stands out: the criminal justice systems in both states currently rely almost entirely on police investigators to resolve these cases.
In other words, the police are left to police themselves. So long as it remains unchanged, police impunity will prevail, police homicide rates will stay high, and the states’ legitimate efforts to curb violence and lawlessness will suffer.
In Rio, we met with the governor, the mayor, and top police officials.
In São Paulo, we also met with top police officials.