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Policing in Brazil

In Brazil, there are 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.

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.

Polícia Federal

policia-federal-badgeThe Polícia Federal (in English: Federal Police) is the federal police force of Brazil, whose main assignments are the investigations of crimes against the Federal Government or its organs and companies, the combat of international drug trafficking and terrorism, and immigration and border control police (including airports and water police).

Polícia Rodoviária Federal

policia-rodoviaria-federalThe Polícia Rodoviária Federal (in Englisg: Brazilian Federal Highway Police are a federal law enforcement agency, subordinate to the Ministry of Justice, whose main function is fighting crime on Brazilian federal roads and highways, as well as monitoring and supervising vehicular traffic, although it has also taken on duties that go beyond its original authority, such as action within Brazilian cities and forests in conjunction with other public safety agencies.

It was subordinate to the old National Department of Roadways (Departamento Nacional de Estradas de Rodagem or DNER), now the National Department of Transport Infrastructure (Departamento Nacional de Infra-Estrutura de Transportes or DNIT), until the publication of Law 8,028 of 12 April 1990, which redefined the structure of the Brazilian executive branch.

The title patrolman no longer exists as of 1998. Members of the PRF are divided into four classes: agent, operational agent, special agent, and inspector.

Polícia Ferroviária Federal

policia-ferroviaria-federalThe Brazilian Federal Railroad Police (US English) or Federal Railway Police (British English) are a police agency founded in 1852 which is responsible for patrols and security on federal railways in Brazil.

This agency was created in 1852, by decree of the emperor Dom Pedro II to protect all riches that were carried on iron rails. Today it is the smallest federal police agency in Brazil with only 780 agents. In practice the Federal Railroad Police are nonexistent, and the railroads are controlled by private enterprises. There are some proposals in the Brazilian Senate to reactivate this police agency, as it is considered important to national security.

Polícia Militar

policia-militar11The Polícia Militar (in English: Military Police is the name of the preventive state police forces in Brazil. Each of the states of Brazil has their own corps of military police, which carries out preventive police duties, while the “Civil Police” carries out detective work, forensics and criminal investigation. The exact balance of the policing workload varies from state to state. For instance, in most of Brazilian states where the military police has a particularly bad reputation, its duties are much more limited.

Although the name literally means military police, implying a gendarmerie, under normal circumstances these forces are under the authority of the state governor, as opposed to being a national institution, as is the norm in the Gendarmerie model. According to article 144 of the 1988 Brazilian Constitution, the Polícia Militar is constitutionally considered an auxiliary and potential reserve to the federal military forces, though subordinate to the state governors. They can, however, be compelled to federal service under a statute similar to posse comitatus[1]. In this regard they are somewhat comparable to the United States National Guard. In effect each Corps forms a state-level Gendarmerie, in that they are Military Forces tasked with law enforcement and internal security duties, rather than national defence, under the control of state, rather than federal government.

These forces are also distinct to the provost forces that police within the Brazilian military: The Army Police (Polícia do Exército), the Naval Police (Polícia da Marinha), and the Air Force Police (Polícia da Aeronaútica).In Brazil, the Civil Police (Portuguese: Polícia Civil) is the name of the investigative state police forces.

Polícia Civil

policia-civilIn Brazil, the Polícia Civil (in English: Civil Police) is the name of the investigative state police forces. The Civil Polices are agencies of the public administration of the federative units of Brazil, whose function is, in accordance with article 144 of the Federal Constitution of 1988, the exercise of the public security for the preservation of the public order, of the safety of the people and the patrimony.

Each of the states of Brazil has its own “Civil Police Department”, which carries out detective work, forensics and criminal investigation, acting as a state bureau of investigation, while the “Military Police” carries out preventive police duties.

It aims at the exercise of functions of judiciary police and the exercise of activities of administrative and security police, which are indispensable to the preservation of the juridical order, to the (promotion of the) harmonic life of the community, and to the warranty of the citizen’s rights and liberty.


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