Brazilian Police

police in Trianon park

A friend recently posted the following article about the dangers of being a poor, Brazilian police officer:

The status of a police officer is very different in Brazil than it is in the U.S. In the States, police officers are most often regarded as heroes. The same goes for fireman. While Brazilians may not relate to this, many children in the States, at least in past generations, have dreamed of being policemen and firemen when they grew up. Police officers in Brazil are often lower-class citizens and receive very little respect.

I have a personal fondness for these professions. Not only do I have a cousin who risked his life for a couple decades on the Chicago police force, but when my husband had a heart-attack, it was the local firemen that saved him (no fire in sight). Sadly, here in Brazil, at least in Sao Paulo and Rio, it seems that very little incentive exists for those in these roles to take the risks necessary to protect the public. In fact, there may be more incentives in the other direction, like bribery or saving one’s own life from organized crime.

One factor that may maintain the police officer status in the U.S. is television programming. Some of the best television dramas in America depict police officers as heroes, such as Law & Order, N.Y.P.D. Blue, and Miami Vice, to name just a few. The admiration of officers is part of our culture. And while some feel there isn’t enough of an investment in salaries for these citizens, they most often pull in at least a middle class income.

Perhaps Globo, or some experienced U.S. production companies looking to capitalize on the growing interest in Brazil, should consider some Brazilian programming that promotes these civil servants as crime-fighting heroes. Many such shows were award-winning cash cows in the States – why not here? And maybe that would drive a bit more investment in getting the best of the crowd to protect the people.

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20 Responses to Brazilian Police

  1. juliana says:

    firemen are very respected in Brazil.

  2. Ray says:

    Dear B.A.B,

    Great post, very true, our police officers do not get the deserved respect.
    It is partly cultural, we have to keep in mind, Brazil was under a dictatorship for almost 30 years, and the police were not considered our friends, it was us against them sort of mentality.
    The police would be the ones imposing fear and order on the population, so the idea of serve and protect was placed in the back burner for a long time while they (police) were used to enforce the dictator’s wishes against the population’s will.
    There has been a lot of initiatives to try to “clean’ up the police’s image and approximate them to the people as the ones who “serve and protect”, but it is a slow process, it will take a little while to change the cultural shift left behind by the military dictatorship days.
    By the way, I love your idea of producing shows that help improve the image of the police, TROPA DE ELITE is a great beginning, in my opinion, they should totally make a series out of those movies, I would definitely watch it.
    Brazilians desperately need a hero figure in the police force, who will fight against all these injustices that really upset anyone who loves Brazil.

    Great post

    Forte abraco

    • Alex says:

      Good points there Ray, especially about the dictatorship. Another reason why it’s hard to compare Brazil to places like the US that don’t have a history like that.


    • As usual Ray, you present the history to help us understand. Thank you! Yes, I can imagine that a population under military rule might learn to consider the police the enemy, and as they are associated with a dictatorship – not get respect because of past politics when that rule is no more.

  3. Corinne says:

    There is a reality show on GNT called “Mulheres de Aço” that follows 4 female civil police (the police that investigate crimes) in RJ. The dictatorship has definitely contributed to general negative feelings toward the police, as well as the fact that the police in general have not evolved from the authoritarian mold they practiced during the dictatorship.

  4. Kristin says:

    Here is my thoughts on this. I’ve lived here for 7 years. I have complete respect for police men and women. Anyone who would willingly put their life on the line day after day (good cop or bad cop) deserves respect. In terms of encouraging “good cops”, the Instituto Sou da Paz, for which I volunteered for two years, gives prizes to the good ones. If I need help on the street, I am going to go to the cops. I hope they have toner that day (long story). My kids love the police in any country. They are 6 years old. The difference is that in the US, they have been invited into the police station to take a tour and see how justice works. In NYC and in small town Illinois.

    Ditto the fire department. It goes without saying how my boys looooooooove firemen. Here and there. In Illinois, you can ride on them in parades, visit on any given Sunday. But here we would never ask to visit the station. I don’t think I’ve seen firemen at a parade, and kids climbing on the trucks as they do in the US. In the US, firemen are integrated into the community. We have barbecues with them (oh, the irony). I think that may be true here too–there is a road race with the Bombeiros every year, and I hear it is great fun–I seem to always be injured for it.

    I agree with the points above about the military dictatorship. My own father in law was imprisoned and tortured in 1967. He will never ever trust the police.

    • Oh my goodness. Makes you wonder how many folks currently in power went through the same as your father-in-law and might still be angry (rightfully) and how that might impact change. Sophia used to love the NYC police – mostly because downtown in Battery Park they rode horses. In Sao Paulo, she doesn’t know a police officer from a mail carrier. And again, we’ve never seen a fireman here. It’s nice to hear that your boys kept their admiration for the force.

  5. Ray says:

    Dear Kristin,

    I grew up in metro area of Sao Paulo city, my parents still live on the same building I grew up in, less then 1 Kilometer from a large Fire Station, the fire department in Brazil is completely different from the police, they are respected, they are seen as role models, they are seen as heroes. Plus, they do welcome small children and children of all ages frequently.
    The one near our home hosts a different kinder garden school class each week, they take the kids to ride on the big fire trucks, we got to jump from the 2nd floor of a practice building on a trampoline and at the end of the day they would empty an entire truck of fire retardant foam on the kids and we got to play inside the 6 feet deep layer of foam, we had a blast, and I am sure they still do it because every once in a while I notice large groups of children at that fire station.
    By the way, the fire station I am referring to is in the city of Sao Bernardo do Campo, just outside of Sao Paulo, right on Kennedy Avenue 😉



  6. Stephanie says:

    There is another show called (I think) “Aguias da Cidade” it’s on the Discovery Chanel right now actually. It is about rescue workers (firemen, paramedics, police) who respond to scary situations in SP. Puts their roles in more of a good light. And I agree about the military dictatorship. Both my husband’s mother and father had to flee to France for 2 years, he was almost born in Paris due to the dictatorship in the late 60’s/1970. In general, they don’t trust the police and want nothing to do with them. My father was a police officer in the U.S., I have always grown up with respect (and also fear of doing something wrong), but here, it’s not like that. In 9 years I have never ever spoken with a police officer or had any reason to and I know many people who have paid bribes to get out of things…it is not the same thing. Hopefully that will change if they start paying them what they should. I think firemen are in a different category than police here. I suppose in the US too. But what you or someone else wrote is true, when in Los Angeles (several times now), whenever we came across police, paramedics or firemen, as soon as they saw my son was interested it was “Hey little man, come on over, come inside, press buttons, sound horns, when they were “on duty!”…never once here in Rio has that happened, and he was born here 7 years ago (almost). You don’t feel that community connection at all.

    • Yes, I’ve always grown up with the fear of doing something wrong. Police officers were cool when I was a kid, but not when I was a teenager. But regarding kid-friendly, I think that the job just attracts a different kind of person here.

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