Law enforcement in Brazil

Law enforcement in Brazil

In Brazil, the Federal Constitution establishes five different law enforcement institutions: the Federal Police, the Federal Highway Police, the Federal Railway Police, the State Military Police and Fire Brigade, and the State Civil Police. Of these, the first three are affiliated to federal authorities and the latter two subordinated to state governments. All police institutions are part of the Executive branch of either federal or state government.

According to the Supreme Federal Tribunal, the only security forces considered police units by Brazilian law are the ones listed in article 144 of the Federal Constitution, that is, the five aforementioned police forces. [ Court Decision [ "ADIn n.236-8/RJ"] Published June 01,2001. Accessed September 5,2007. (Portuguese)]

There are two primary police functions: maintaining order and law enforcement. When criminal offences are committed in violation of federal laws, federal police forces carry out those functions. Likewise, when state laws are violated, the corresponding state police forces undertake police activities.


The first groups assigned with security duties in Brazilian territory date back to the early sixteenth century. Small, incipient units were designated in the Brazilian coastline, with the main function of fending off hostile foreign invaders. In 1566, the first police investigator of Rio de Janeiro was recruited. [ Rio de Janeiro Civil Police [ "Historical Data"] Accessed September 5,2007.] By the seventeenth century, most "capitanias" already had local units with law enforcement functions. In July 9, 1775 a Cavalry Regiment was created in Minas Gerais for maintaining order. At the time, intense gold mining had attracted attention and greed of explorers, generating tensions in the area. [ Minas Gerais Military Police [ "Histórico"] Accessed September 5,2007. (Portuguese)] In 1808, the Portuguese royal family relocated to Brazil, due to the French invasion of Portugal. King João VI sought to reshape the administrative structure of the colony. Among several reforms, he established the "Intendência Geral de Polícia" (General Police Intendancy), which merged police units with investigative functions. He also created a Military Guard with police functions in 13 May, 1809. This is considered a predecessor force of local military police units. Later, in 1831, when independence had already been declared, each province started organizing its local "military police", with order maintenance tasks. In 31 January, 1842, law 261 was enacted, reorganizing the investigative offices, the current "civil police". Finally, in 1871, law 2033 separated police and judicial functions, creating the general bureaucratic structure and mechanisms still adopted nowadays by local police forces. [ Tourinho Filho, F. 2004. "Processo Penal vol.1". p.190. São Paulo: Saraiva. ISBN 85-02-04597-0] In 1944, the first federal police institution was created. The current Federal Police department was conceived on November 16, 1964. [ Brazilian Federal Police Department [ "Histórico do DPF"] . Accessed September 5,2007. (Portuguese)] During the military dictatorship, some political police organizations were maintained, such as the DOI-CODI.

Primary functions

Law enforcement and maintaining order are the two primary functions of Brazilian police units. In Brazilian Law, maintaining order is considered a preventive effort whereby police troopers patrol the streets to protect citizens and discourage criminal activity. Law enforcement consists of criminal investigation, therefore taking place after a criminal offence. [ Silva, J.A. 2004. "Curso de Direito Constitucional Positivo". p.758. São Paulo: Malheiros. ISBN 85-7420-559-1]

Prevention and investigation in Brazil are divided between two distinct police organizations. Local "military police" forces only have order maintenance duties. Correspondingly, "civil police" institutions are responsible solely for crime investigation. However, at the federal level, the Federal Police is commissioned with both preventive and investigative functions of federal crimes.cite web | title = Brazilian Federal Constitution, article 144 | publisher = Brazilian Government (official text) | url =çao.htm | accessdate = 2007-09-05 See also: [ "Brazilian Federal Constitution in English"] , text translated to English (unofficial). Accessed September 5,2007.]

Federal institutions

There are three federal police institutions in Brazil: the Federal Police, the Federal Highway Police, and the Federal Railway Police.

* The "Federal Police", officially the "Departamento de Polícia Federal", is described by the Constitution as "a permanent administrative organ of the federal Executive branch". It has the main duties of preventing and investigating federal crimes (offences that violate federal law). Thus, it has both order maintenance and law enforcement tasks. It also patrols airports, maritime waters, and the border. It is directly subordinated to the Ministry of Justice.

*The "Federal Highway Police", also described as "a permanent administrative organ of the federal Executive branch", has the main function of patrolling federal highways. It maintains order, but does not investigate crime.

* The "Federal Railway Police", the third and last federal police force. Like the previously mentioned institutions, the Federal Railway Police is described as "a permanent administrative organ of the federal Executive branch" with the main function of patrolling the federal railway system. It does not investigate crime, solely focusing on order maintenance.

tate institutions

There are two types of state police institutions: the Military Police and Fire Brigade and the Civil Police.

*The "Military Police and Fire Brigade" is the state police with order maintenance functions. It patrols the streets and imprisons suspects of criminal activity, handing them over to Civil Police custody or, in case of federal crimes, to the Federal Police. It is a "militarized" institution (gendarmerie) because it is based on military principles of hierarchy, ranks, uniform, discipline, and ceremonial. However, it is not part of the Brazilian Armed Forces. It is described by the Constitution as an "ancillary force of the Army". The Military Fire Brigade is a part of the Military Police, although it does not perform traditional policing duties. It is subordinated to the local government.

*The "Civil Police" is the state police with law enforcement duties. It has the function of investigating crimes committed in violation of state criminal law. It does not patrol the streets and does not use uniforms. Like the Military Police, it is subordinated to the state government.

Other security forces

*Municipalities may create Municipal Guards. They have the duty of protecting property, services and facilities of local governments. They are not police institutions and do not have order maintenance or law enforcement obligations. Thus, they are not listed in article 144 of the Federal Constitution as an autonomous police unit. There are over 400 Municipalities with Municipal Guards.

*The "National Public Security Force", officially the "Força Nacional de Segurança Pública", was created by presidential decree 5.289 in November 29, 2004. It is not a security force "per se". Rather, it is a federal program of cooperation among all Brazilian police forces for situations of emergency or exceptional nature. [ Ministério da Justiça [ "Força Nacional de Segurança Pública"] Accessed September 5,2007. (Portuguese)]

*"Army, Navy and Air Force police units" are not to be confused with the state Military Police. These are internal security units of each Armed Forces branch. They do not have general order maintenance or law enforcement functions. Other internal units may be created for protection of particular agencies or administrative entities, such as the guards of legislative houses, which are not police institutions. Nevertheless, in times of emergency, the Army has been called upon to maintain order, most notably in Rio de Janeiro. [ Jornal da Globo [,19125,VTJ0-2742-20060306-154122,00.html "Exército nas ruas do Rio"] Accessed September 13,2007. (Portuguese)]

Entry qualification

Access to all positions in any police force is obtained through entry exams. These normally consist of academic tests but in some cases may also include physical tests. Candidates must fulfill academic and minimum physical requirements that vary according to each institution and post. All Police Chiefs must hold a university degree in Law. In some cases, a law degree may be required for other occupations as well.


Intense police brutality and widespread corruption have harmed the reputation of police institutions in Brazil, especially state forces. [Human Rights Report [ "Police brutality in urban Brazil"] Accessed September 5,2007.] [ [ "Amnesty International reports on Violence in Brazil"] , SEJUP (Servico Brasileiro de Justica e Paz), "News from Brazil", No. 489, 29 May 2003, Accessed September 5,2007.] Violence against suspects and extra-judicial executions are known to be employed by police. In the cities of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, the Military Police has been involved in several controversial massacres of civilians, typically in poor neighborhoods were high profile criminals tend to hide in. There have also been massacres in prison facilities. One of the most notorious cases is the Carandiru massacre of 1992. Torture is still commonly used as means of questioning and punishing individuals. [ Amnesty International [ "Brazil - Police Brutality"] Accessed September 5,2007.]

Inefficiency in law enforcement is high, due to lack of appropriate infrastructure and qualified personnel. Careful investigation is the exception rather than the rule. In 2003, for instance, the state of São Paulo had up to 85% of homicide investigations archived before court proceedings due to lack of sufficient evidence. [ Ministério Público do Paraná [ "MP na Imprensa"] Accessed September 5,2007. (Portuguese)] Order maintenance is also considerably inefficient, with levels of violence in the largest urban centers being compared to that of war zones by some studies. [Transnational Institute [ "Drugs and Democracy in Brazil"] Accessed September 5,2007] [ BBC News [ "Rio 'worse than a war zone'"] Accessed September 5,2007]


ee also

* Brazilian Federal Police
* Military Police of Brazilian States
* Civil Police of Brazilian States
* Brazilian Intelligence Agency

External links

* [ "Brazilian Federal Police"] (Portuguese)
* [ "Rio de Janeiro Military Police"] (Portuguese)
* [ "Rio de Janeiro Civil Police"] (Portuguese)
* [ "São Paulo Military Police"] (Portuguese)
* [ "São Paulo Civil Police"] (Portuguese)
* [ "Minas Gerais Military Police"] (Portuguese)
* [ "Minas Gerais Civil Police"] (Portuguese)

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Law enforcement in present-day nations and states — This is a list of law enforcement in articles, for contemporary countries, states and dependencies. compactTOC2 NOTOC A *flagicon|Afghanistan Law enforcement in Afghanistan Islamic Republic of Afghanistan *flagicon|United Kingdom Law enforcement… …   Wikipedia

  • Law, Crime, and Law Enforcement — ▪ 2006 Introduction Trials of former heads of state, U.S. Supreme Court rulings on eminent domain and the death penalty, and high profile cases against former executives of large corporations were leading legal and criminal issues in 2005.… …   Universalium

  • Law enforcement by country — In many countries, particularly those with a federal system of government, there may be several police or police like organizations, each serving different levels of government and enforcing different subsets of the applicable law. Argentina In… …   Wikipedia

  • Law enforcement in Bolivia — Bolivian National Police Corps Cuerpo de Policía Nacional Abbreviation CdPN Agency overview Formed 1886 Employees 31,000 Legal personality …   Wikipedia

  • List of law enforcement agencies — A law enforcement agency (LEA) is any agency which enforces the law. This may be a local or state police, federal agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) or the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). It could also refer to a… …   Wikipedia

  • Crime, Law Enforcement, and Penology — ▪ 1995 Introduction Terrorism.       Peace talks continued in 1994 between Israel and its Arab neighbours despite a series of murderous incidents, while in Northern Ireland the Irish Republican Army, one of the world s most tenacious terrorist… …   Universalium

  • Outline of law enforcement — The following outline is provided as an overview of and introduction to law enforcement: Law enforcement – subsystem of society that promotes adherence to the law by discovering and punishing persons who violate the rules and norms governing that …   Wikipedia

  • National Drug Law Enforcement Agency — The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) is a Federal agency in Nigeria charged with eliminating the growing, processing, manufacturing, selling, exporting, and trafficking of hard drugs. The agency was established by Decree Number 48 of… …   Wikipedia

  • Law of Brazil — Brazil This article is part of the series: Politics and government of Brazil …   Wikipedia

  • Law — /law/, n. 1. Andrew Bonar /bon euhr/, 1858 1923, English statesman, born in Canada: prime minister 1922 23. 2. John, 1671 1729, Scottish financier. 3. William, 1686 1761, English clergyman and devotional writer. * * * I Discipline and profession… …   Universalium

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.