The Brazilian government establishes guidelines on the use of force by law enforcement officials
January 5, 2011 - The Ministry of Justice and the Secretariat for Human Rights of Brazil edited on Monday a joint ordinance establishing the Guidelines on the Use of Force by agents of Public Safety. The goal is to reduce the lethality of actions involving public safety officers in the country.
Currently, over 20% of the 35,000 annual homicides recorded in Brazil result from confrontations between criminals and the police or from stray bullets in those conflicts. The rate could be halved if instruments of lower offensive potential were used in operational routines aimed to preserve life and minimize damage to the integrity of citizens.
According to the ordinance, the use of force must respect the principles of legality, necessity, proportionality, moderation, and convenience.
Public safety officers "should not trigger firearms against persons except in cases of legitimate self-defense or imminent threat of death or serious injury."
It is also prohibited "the use of a firearm against a person on the run who is disarmed or that, even in the possession of a gun, does not pose immediate danger of death or serious harm to public safety agents or others." To shoot at a vehicle trying to evade a police checkpoint is also considered illegitimate, unless the failure to block "represents an immediate risk of death or serious harm to public safety agents or others."
The so-called "warning shots" are not considered an acceptable practice, according to the ordinance because of the "unpredictability of its effects."
The ordinance also provides that any public safety officer must carry at least two instruments of lower offensive potential. Whenever there is injury or death from the use of force, safety officers must complete an individual report.
With the publication of the ordinance, the state secretaries of public safety should edit normative acts regulating the use of force by their agents, as well as create internal committees for controlling and monitoring lethality, with the aim of monitoring the use of force by its agents.
With the new guidelines, the activities of agents in Brazil will follow international treaties on human rights as the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, adopted by UN General Assembly (1979), the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment adopted by the UN General Assembly (1984), the Guidelines for the effective implementation of the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials adopted by the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (1989), and the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials adopted by the Eighth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders (1999).
The result of the new guidelines will be considered by the National Secretariat of Public Safety of the Ministry of Justice in the transfer of funds to the states.
See the full ordinance.
See the full ordinance (in Portuguese).