Latin America & Caribbean

Rio protest: Brazil police demand tougher protection laws

Police protest in Copacabana, Rio, 9 Dec 14 Image copyright AP
Image caption Protesters say the families of police officers killed in the line of duty get little financial support

Hundreds of Brazilian police officers and their relatives have taken part in a protest in Rio de Janeiro to demand tougher legislation for crimes against the police.

They are demanding changes in the penal code so that the killing of police officers be treated as heinous crimes.

Eighty officers were killed in the line of duty in Rio this year alone.

In most cases, they died fighting the criminal gangs that control many of the city's shantytowns, or favelas.

During the week, protesters laid crosses on the sand of Copacabana beach with the names of the dead.

Wearing predominantly black, some 500 people staged a march on Sunday to raise awareness to the problem.

'War in Rio'

Many argue that while police brutality gets the headlines in Brazil and abroad, violence against police officer does not get the same media attention or the required legal protection.

"We want people to understand that there is a war going on in Rio de Janeiro," one of the protest organisers, Cpl Flavia Louzada, told Extra newspaper.

She said that the families of police officers killed in the line of duty got little financial support from the corporation.

"It takes at least four months, often more, for the families to begin receiving any benefit."

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Crosses were laid on the sand of Copacabana beach for 161 officers killed in Rio in the past two years
Image copyright AFP
Image caption The memorial was organised by NGO Rio de Paz (Peace Rio)
Image copyright AFP
Image caption "I don't want a flag and a dead hero. I want government support and a parent alive," reads the banner.
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Law enforcement agents say it will be difficult to change the public view of Brazilian police

The protesters also called for extra security measures in the units set up in some of Rio's main favelas ahead of the Olympics the city will host in 2016.

The Pacifying Police Unit programme, or UPP, was launched in Rio in 2008, ahead of this year's World Cup.

It has since then managed to rid some of the city's most dangerous favelas.

But critics say some police officers have acted with brutality, leading to a resurgence of violence in some areas.

Alexander de Oliveira Silva lost both legs during a grenade attack to his post.

He told the AP news agency that he still believes in the programme, but admits that will be difficult to change public opinion and change the view of police.

Brazilian police have killed more than 11,000 people over the past five years, averaging about six killings a day, according to the Brazilian Forum on Public Safety.

The group, which monitors violence said law enforcement agents in the US, by comparison, had killed a similar number over the past 30 years.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Brazil has one of the world's highest rates of gun crime

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