Update on police killings in Salvador

The Bahia Public Attorney’s Office has just (May 18 2015) published its findings on the deaths of twelve young residents of the Cabula neighbourhood of Salvador at the hands of military police of the Special Patrols Unit (Rondesp) mentioned in an earlier post. Investigators have concluded that this was an extra-judicial execution, and worse than that, an extra-judicial execution that was planned in advance and carried out in revenge for an officer having been wounded in the foot in an episode in which police exchanged fire with drug traffickers in the area during the previous month. The evidence points to a carefully planned attack in which the victims were trapped and their escape routes blocked. The hypothesis is that the killings were intended to “send a message” to the traffickers. But only one of the twelve killed actually had a police record (for possession of marijuana), and almost all the victims had wounds on their arms consistent with vain attempts on the part of people on their knees and not resisting to defend themselves from a rain of bullets. Eighty-eight bullets struck those who died and the six wounded survivors. The operation was allegedly led by subtenente Júlio César Lopes Pitta, and the authorities have asked for the nine accused officers to be placed in custody, since there had been reports of threats being made against witnesses. It appears that subtenente Pitta had been accused of organising another extra-judicial execution in 2009, an event that also involved the fabrication of a supposed fire-fight with traffickers.

As I show in my book The New War on the Poor, extra-judicial police killings remain an endemic problem in Bahia and Brazil more generally, and those responsible have rarely been brought to justice in the past. There has been a swift reaction from state deputy Marco (“Soldado”) Prisco, of the PSDB, leader of the ASPRA (Associação dos Policiais, Bombeiros e dos seus Familiares do Estado da Bahia), a Military Police and Firemen’s Union that organised strikes in Bahia in 2012 and 2014. Insisting that the police always act “on behalf of society”, Prisco insisted that the prosecution of these officers would only add to the mounting discontent within the police corporation, although he refused to confirm or deny a rumour circulating on Whatsapp that police were planning an “operation tortoise” (go slow) in protest at the decision to prosecute the Rondesp officers for murder.

For more information (in Portuguese) see:

Chacina com 12 mortos no Cabula foi planejada por PMs como vingança, Correio da Bahia, accessed May 19 2015.

Mortos no Cabula: Prisco diz que conclusão do MP desgasta a corporação, Bocão News, accessed May 19 2015.