The detail of the routine scene is what makes it “natural” or a “strange” scene in Brazil: being a black youth or a white youth.
Gilvan Gomes da Silva*
On May 28, a police approach gained prominence on social networks and in the headlines of large television and digital media. In a park in Cidade Ocidental, in Goiás, a young Youtuber cyclist practiced maneuvers and filmed. While performing the performance, a police vehicle stopped near the filming location and began an evolutionary sequence of stressful speeches that can be summarized between orders to carry out the approach, search and questioning why the procedure was carried out.
The situation evolved to more tense speeches and the gun pointed at the cyclist and ended with the young cyclist in handcuffs, even though he gave in to orders without showing any reaction, except for his questioning. The detail of the routine scene is what makes it “natural” or a “strange” scene in Brazil: being a black youth or a white youth. In the images released, the police forcefully says that the order is legal and that this is the procedure. So, let’s start with the affirmation of legality and police protocols regarding the approach and personal search. Personal search, the well-known magazine, according to Article 244 of the CPP, is legal when in the act or with well-founded suspicion, that is, with evidence of crimes. The central issue becomes the reason for the approach with a search sequence with a pointed weapon.
Several surveys carried out in Brazil have already debated selectivity during the approach and personal magazines. After the edifying and inspiring work of Silvia Ramos when analyzing the PMERJ approaches, other academic works found similar results in different regions of the country and at different times. The research carried out in 2009, conducted by the Center for Studies on Violence and Security of the University of Brasília, already pointed, among other factors, to racial and territorial issues, as well as the discipline of the body, actions and situations were criteria for the selection used. by PMDF officers.
In 2014 and 2019, in several surveys coordinated by Professor Jacqueline Sinhoretto involving academics from UFF, UFSCar, Fundação João Pinheiro in Minas Gerais and UnB, they pointed to the racialization of social relations also expressed in the field of public safety, and, consequently, in police approaches. The 2019 surveys found that in Minas Gerais, for example, black people are 3 times more likely to be arrested than white people and 4 times more likely to be victims of police lethality. This lethality rate varies from 3 to 7 times in São Paulo. The survey’s general data indicate that there is a vision of the potential criminal being a young, black and poor person.
However, these various situations observed and analyzed in research in different parts of Brazil in recent decades demonstrate that the field of Public Security follows the same logic caused by structural inequality in Brazilian society, because, as Arthur Trindade Costa already pointed out, the analysis of behavior police cannot be dissociated from the analysis of the political, economic, and social structures of society. However, in addition to the unequal characteristics of these structural powers, there is a racialized cultural legal construction that ontologically constitutes the formation of the formal control field in Brazil and, consequently, of the police. A brief historical clipping demonstrates how the interconnection of the selective segregating logic of public security agents was supported by norms that were dissipated in daily practices, leaving the paper and remaining in the acts.
As Maíra Zapater highlights about the legal inheritance and legal scars, the selective criminalization of behavior is present in several articles of the Criminal Code of the Empire of 1890, in Decree No. 847, which regulated actions of a moral nature, continued in the Decree- Law No. 3.688/41 which brings in its article 59 that “habitually surrender to idleness, being valid for work, without having an income to ensure sufficient means of subsistence, or provide for one’s livelihood through illicit occupation [gripo meu]” would be liable to imprisonment. The decree of two years after the legal prohibition of slavery regulated the actions of people who no longer work in the fields and in urban areas, as there was an ongoing whitening policy in the country, stimulating the immigration of Europeans from the late 19th century and early 20th century. Begging was also typified as an illegal act, revoked only in 2009. In the same way as playing Capoeira and Drunken Conducts were typified as an act liable to imprisonment. Wandering around the city, having fun or meeting for samba circles were also prohibited, as they would be configured as proof of vagrancy, as Lira Neto recalls in the book História do Samba. It is this diapason of subsistence conditions and morality that guided the permission of which groups could participate in the city’s activities. The acts typified as illegal were clearly acts of black people, either because of their socio-cultural characteristics or because of their economic, political and legal conditions.
Thus, both the control actions by State agents in 1890 and those of May 28, 2021, as well as several others analyzed in the two decades of the 21st century, have a guiding thread that was once legally grounded and that today, even in illegality, it extrapolates the Standard Operational Protocols because the social structures are as similar as those of the Brazilian Empire, with the same permissions and prohibitions for the same groups to have the right or not to the city, citizenship and, in many cases, life.
* 2nd Sergeant of the Federal District Military Police, Doctor in Sociology, professor at the Superior Institute of Police Sciences (PMDF) and researcher at the Center for Studies on Violence and Security (UnB).
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In the same issue, read also “Combating Arms Trafficking as a Public Policy” and “Criminal recidivism“.