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27-31 August 2019
Poznań, Poland
Europe/Warsaw timezone
programme last update: 23 August 2019
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Contribution Paper

Poznań, Poland - Morasko Kampus, room: 3.160

"Human rights for the right humans": The rise and fall of "democratic" policing models in Brazil.


  • Dr. Marta Laura SUSKA

Primary authors


This paper explores the rise and fall of two "democratic" policing programs in under-resourced favelas in Brazil. Based on six years of ethnographic research among police officers in Recife and Rio de Janeiro, I reveal the varying ways in which the state has implemented progressive policing models that successfully reduced violence rates. However, the recent election of a right wing government has re-vived the ideology of a "war on drugs" and encouraged police to kill suspects. As a result, we have observed the resurgence of massacres commited by the military police. I will discuss the demise of “soft” neoliberal urban governance models, where the police remained at the center of the security state but were framed by international development and human rights discourses. I examine how the notion of “democratic” policing has been constructed, understood, and transformed on the ground by police officers and favela residents. The discussion goes beyond the dominant narrative that characterizes police primarily as state instruments to explore their role as ideological influencer and enforcer. I argue that due to a chronic racial segregation, lacking infrastructure, and misconstrued solidarity within the military police, human rights were conceptualized as weakness. Favela residents, on the other hand, largely experienced "democratic" policing approaches in form of rising cost of living and gentrification. I argue that examining the experiences of police officers and favela residents on the ground leading up the the 2018 presidential election is central to understanding current public security measures and its future.