Thursday, September 29, 2011

Update: Police Chief in Rio Resigns Over Judge's Assassination

Mario Sergio Duarte, chief of police of the Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro, who is responsible for law enforcement in a jurisdiction of 16 million people (equivalent to being chief of police of New York City, Chicago, Houston and Los Angeles combined) tendered his resignation yesterday (September 28) for promoting Claudio de Oliveira as chief of police of the state of Rio's second largest city (Sao Goncalo, population 1 million).

It was recently disclosed that Oliveira and seven officers in his department conspired in the assassination of Judge Patricia Acioli (please see my recent posting) who was known for being tough on rogue cops who turned to vigilantism or extorted money from civilians. She was shot 21 times with police-issued bullets in front of her home in the city of Niteroi in August. All eight officers have since been arrested.

COMMENT: In his letter of resignation, Duarte took responsibility for naming Oliveira a police chief. He said blame should not fall on the state public security department itself, which has made strides against combating crime in recent years, but solely on his own shoulders.

The head of the state security department, Jose Mariano Beltrame, a state cabinet position, accepted Duarte's resignation with regret. In just the last few months, Rio police officers have been charged in several cases. Eleven officers who were part of the community policing program were arrested in September after being caught taking cash from traffickers. In July, the month before Acioli's slaying, four officers were charged with murdering and dumping the body of an 11-year-old boy. A 2009 case severely shook the image of Rio's police: Officers were caught on camera arresting and then releasing men who had just shot to death the head of a civil rights group.

Although Duarte was unaware of Oliveira's complicity in Judge Acioli's assassination, he nevertheless did an honorable thing by resigning. Few public officials in the US would do the same when confronted by scandal. Hopefully, Beltrame will select an equally suitable candidate to replace Duarte to continue with his efforts to clean up the state police system.

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