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Brazilian Police Literally Gets Away with Murder

At the moment that the world was celebrating Human Rights Day, Brazilian bloggers were crying out against yet another death caused by the disastrous approach of the police going unpunished in Rio de Janeiro.

Last July, a 3 year old boy was killed by two State Military Police officers who took the car his mother was driving for a stolen one they had been chasing. The family car received 17 shots, three of which hit João Roberto. William de Paula, one of the policeman, was acquitted of charges of doubly qualified murder by 4 to 3 votes at a jury last Thursday. He was sentenced to seven months community work for small injuries against João's mother, Alessandra Amorim Soares and his brother Vinicius Amorim, at the time 9 months old.

The acquittal, as well as the fact that the jury found that the policeman had acted in accordance with what is expected of him, shocked not only the boy's family: but the majority of bloggers also considered this sentence too lenient, a sign of impunity. They join the family in calling for justice.

The blogger at My little corner of the world [pt] shows her disgust at the decision and mentions the mother's desperate gesture on realizing that there were guns pointed at the car – she threw a baby's bag through the windows to show that kids were inside the vehicle:

Mais um caso de impunidade, mais uma vez vamos ver uma criança pagando pela barbaridade adulta, uma vida interrompida, uma vida de sonhos, NÃO acredito na inocência desse policial! Acredito na inocência dessa mãe que lutou num gesto inocente mostar que haviam crianças dentro do carro, francamente todos sabemos que vivemos numa sociedade sangrenta, poderia ser sim o bandido que eles estavam perseguindo, mais será que se fossem os tais bandidos os direitos humanos não teriam condenado esse policial? E agora? Aonde fica o MEU direito? A coisa mais inútil no Brasil é esse tal de “direitos humanos” quem tem de fato direito a isso? Aquele que rouba, mata, comete crimes bárbaros contra crianças! Esses sim são as meninas dos olhos da sociedade, no entanto essa criança que tinha planos, sonhos e acima de tudo INOCÊNCIA teve sua vida brutalmente interrompida e seus pais a quem restou dor e lembranças não verão a justiça ser feita, minha revolta como disse anteriormente é sabe que se o bandido tivesse morrido esse senhor morreria na cadeia, no entando como foi com mais um…vira estatística não é mesmo?

Yet another case of impunity, once again we see a child paying for adult brutality, a life interrupted, a life of dreams, I DON'T believe in this police officer's innocence! I believe in the innocence of this mother who fought with a naive gesture to show that there were innocent children inside the car, frankly we all know we live in a bloody society, it could indeed have been the bad guy that they were chasing, but even if they had been those bandits, human rights [groups] would condemn the police, wouldn't they? And now? Where are MY rights? The most useless thing in Brazil is such a thing as “human rights”, who is in fact entitled to them? Those who steal, kill and commit barbaric crimes against children! These are the apples of society's eyes, however this child who had plans, dreams and foremost INNOCENCE has had his life brutally interrupted and his parents who have been left with pain and memories will not see justice done, as I said earlier my disgust is to know that if it was a robber who had died, this guy [the policeman] would die in jail, however as it was just another one [of us], it becomes a statistic… doesn't it?

Fernanda Freitas [pt] says knowing that Willian de Paula is free is painful. “What will become of us?”, she asks:

A família do acusado, segundo os jornais desta manhã, compareceu ao julgamento usando camisetas onde se lia: “Só quem te conhece sabe o ser humano que tu és”. A avaliar pela declaração do cabo na sessão onde admitia que havia confundido os carros (eles perseguiam bandidos em um outro carro preto, momentos antes da execução do menino) na rua escura e que poderia ter sido pior, posso imaginar que tipo de pessoa Willian de Paula é: um delinqüente. Sim, poderia ter sido pior. Com 17 tiros ele poderia ter matado a família inteira. E só executou uma criança inocente, vejam vocês como ele é generoso! Minha gente, não é exigido dos Policiais Militares que matem, que ameacem, que ponham em risco a vida de nós, cidadãos. Cabe a eles sim, nos proteger, garantir a segurança. Não poderia ter sido pior não, viu ser humano fantástico! A obrigação dos policiais, na incerteza é de não atirar: cercar, abordar, averiguar. Não somos baratas, e o que será de nós com essa polícia falha e cheia de corporativismo? O que será de nós depois desse pano quente do Júri. A acusação promete recorrer, mas essa primeira absolvição absurda já será motivo suficiente para que os corpos de outras vítimas caiam no chão diante da impunidade.

The culprit's family, according to newspapers this morning, attended the trial wearing T-shirts bearing the following message: “Only those who have met you know the human being you are.” To judge by what the policeman said in a statement in which he admitted he had confused the cars (they had been pursuing bandits in another black car, moments before the boy's execution) in a dark street and that it could have been worse, I can only imagine what kind of person Willian de Paula is: a delinquent. Indeed, it could have been worse. With 17 shots, he could have killed the whole family. And he just executed one innocent child, you see how generous he is! Folks, it is not required that the State Military Police kill, threaten, endanger the lives of us citizens. It is up to them to protect us, ensuring security. It could not have been worse, you great human being! The police obligation, in case of uncertainty, is not to shoot: they should surround, address, check. We are not cockroaches, and what will become of us with this failed and self-serving police? What will become of us after this wrapping-up in cotton wool by the jury? The prosecution promised to appeal, but this first absurd acquittal will be a good enough reason for other victims’ bodies to fall on the floor in face of impunity.

Another blogger called Fernanda, from Esse meu Palco [pt], picks up on the fact that the first big mistake the police officers made was to mix up two different types of cars, a Fiat Palio and a Fiat Stilo:

Vem cá, tem uma clara e viva diferença entre um Palio e um Estilo…não tem?!”Eles estavam cumprindo o dever.” Até quando vamos ficar na linha de risco de policiais que ao cumprirem seu “dever” colocam vidas em risco? (…) Vale lembrar que a decisão foi tomada pelo júri popular,isso quer dizer que as pessoas não fazem noção do quanto o julgamento vale,da importância e do peso que isso tem. O que aconteceu para que ele fosse absolvido? O que as pessoas estavam pensando?

Come on, there is a clear and vital difference between a Palio and a Stilo… isn't there? “They were fulfilling a duty.” Until when will we be in the firing line of a police force who fulfill its “duty” by putting lives at risk? (…) Remember that the decision was made by a popular jury, which means that people have no idea about what the trial is worth, or its importance, size and weight. What happened for him to be acquitted? What were people thinking?

Renato Vargens [pt] says that Rio de Janeiro's population is facing one of its most dark moments for at least 40 years, considering that murders and crime – and impunity – have become the banal norm. That is why the jurors decided on the police officer's acquittal:

A impressão que temos é que a morte de João Roberto não teve nenhuma importância para sociedade carioca. Infelizmente, na visão dos quatro jurados que votaram pela absolvição, o policial estava cumprindo seu dever.

The impression we have is that the death of João Roberto had no importance whatsoever for Rio's society. Unfortunately, in the point of view of the four jurors who voted for the acquittal the police officer was fulfilling his duty.

Maurício Baccarin [pt] delves further into the question of what might have been going on in the jurors’ minds and reaches a different conclusion:

Porque, segundo o promotor de justiça Paulo Rangel “os jurados não entenderam a votação. Um deles pediu para o juiz repetir a pergunta porque não estava entendendo e acho que continuou sem entender, mas ficou com vergonha de ser o único que não entendeu. Se é que foi realmente o único”. Rangel lamentou também a estrutura do julgamento e desqualificou os jurados, dizendo que alguns dormiram durante o julgamento. São pessoas sem qualquer compromisso com a ética”, disse o promotor.

Because, according to prosecutor Paul Rangel, “the jury did not understand the voting system. One of them asked the judge to repeat the question because he had not understood it and I think he continued without  understanding, but he was ashamed to be the only one who did not get it. That is, if he was really the only one”. Rangel also regretted the structure of the trial and disqualified the jury, saying that some fell asleep during the trial. “They are people without any commitment to ethics”, said the prosecutor.

Reinaldo Cintra [pt] remembers that this is not the first time that the police force goes unpunished for killing innocent people this year, and he blames professional self-interest for that. And on a such important anniversary:

No dia do aniversário da Declaração Universal dos Direitos Humanos, a decisão do júri soa como um tapa na cara de todos os que ainda desejam que ela não se limite a ser uma simples carta de boas intenções.

On the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the jury's decision seems like a slap in the face of all those who still hope that these rights are not only limited to a simple letter of good intentions.

Na Boca Mole [pt] blog publishes a video showing the couple who lost their son in such a tragic way after they learnt the news, and also with scenes of the moment of the shooting, filmed by CCTV. He asks:

Aonde vai parar essa tamanha irresponsabilidade em colocar um policial despreparado na rua?

When is the irresponsibility of putting such an unprepared police force on the streets going to stop?

Paulino [pt] follows the same line of thought:

A absolvição do PM Wiliam de Paula não legitima a execução de pessoas inocentes nas ruas das cidades brasileiras, mas sim, legitima a continuidade da falha e ineficiente Política de Segurança Pública, desde a garimpagem no seio social de pessoas inaptas para a função de Polícia, até o seu enfardamento e despojo nas ruas, para consumar o que já começa errado. Isto está legitimado com a nossa falta de consciência de cidadão, de democracia e de política.

The acquittal of policeman Wiliam de Paula is not a justification for the execution of innocent people on Brazilian cities’ streets, but it legitimates the continued failure and inefficiency of Public Security policy, starting with the digging in society for people unsuitable for the task of the Police, up to their wearing the uniform and preying on the streets, finishing off what has already started wrong. This is legitimized by our lack of awareness as citizens, of democracy and politics.

Among the bloggers that celebrated the result of the trial, there were other police officers, like Aderivaldo Martins Cardoso [pt], who says he saw justice being done in Brazil:

DEVEMOS COMBATER A VIOLÊNCIA POLICIAL EM NOSSO PAÍS, mas devemos perceber que todos nós estamos passíveis de cometermos erros em nossa profissão. São vários os exemplos de como alguns segundos podem fazer a diferença em nossas vidas. São inúmeras as vezes em que um erro de um profissional, seja ele médico ou policial, mudou o destino de pessoas, acabando com a vida ou matando sonhos. Tanto o médico como o policial salvam vidas diariamente, mas quando ERRAM podem levá-las para sempre. E NÓS SERES HUMANOS NÃO SOMOS PERFEITOS, SOMOS PASSÍVEIS DE ERROS A QUALQUER MOMENTO.

WE MUST FIGHT POLICE VIOLENCE IN OUR COUNTRY, but we must realize that we are all likely to make mistakes in our profession. There are several examples of how a few seconds can make a difference in our lives. There are a countless number of occasions when a professional's error, be he doctor or police [officer], changed people's destiny, ending life or killing dreams. Both doctor and police [officer] save lives every day, but when they make mistakes they can take lives forever. AND WE HUMAN BEINGS ARE NOT PERFECT, WE ARE LIKELY TO COMMIT ERRORS AT ANY TIME.

Mônica [pt], another police officer, says this unlikely trial result proves God exists. She criticizes the Police command who condemned the disastrous operation by quoting them:

“-Os policiais não agiram de acordo com o manual da corporação, que determina que os policiais só devem atirar em legítima defesa”. Mais uma vez a PM se isenta de qualquer culpa de seus homens serem tão mal treinados, mal preparados e remunerados.

“-The policemen did not act according to the manual of the corporation, which stipulates that police should only shoot in self-defense.” Once again the police command exempt themselves from any responsibility for their men who were so poorly trained, prepared and paid.

And Eduardo Ritter [pt] compares the situation in Brazil, a country that has grown accustomed to a police approach which shoots first and then asks questions, with that of Greece, where a similar situation has brought the whole country to protest. He says that in Brazil the main problem is that the police force is so badly paid, which leads the population to ask, when “earning R$ 600 [approximately US$ 250] to sustain a family, which policeman will not be corrupt?”:

Agora, na Grécia o negócio funciona ao contrário. O sujeito paga imposto, o policial ganha bem, e se ele matar um civil, a briga não é contra a pessoa do policial, mas sim contra todo o sistema, que ganha bem e falhou! Uma revolução está acontecendo por conta de um homicídio cometido por um policial. A polícia, lá, tem moral. E aqui, que a polícia virou chacota da dança da periquita, praticamente todos os âncoras dos jornais das grandes emissoras deram a notícia dos manifestantes da Grécia como se dissessem: “fazer toda essa baderna SÓ porque um policial matou um civil? Francamente”.

Now, in Greece the thing works the other way around. People pay tax, police officers get well paid, and if they kill a civilian, the fight is not against the police officer in charge, but against the whole system, which is well funded and has failed! A revolution is happening because of a murder committed by a police officer. The police there is righteous. And here, our police is made a mockery of for doing the parakeet's dance, whereas virtually all anchors of the major news broadcasters gave the news of the protests in Greece as if to say: “all this commotion just because a police officer has killed a civilian? Frankly.”

Police violence is one of the most internationally recognized human rights violations in Brazil. According to Human Rights Watch, the unofficial estimates show there are over 3,000 deaths annually from police violence in the country.

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