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A constitutional principle provides that federal, state, and municipal police forces are charged with the duty of preserving public order and the security of persons and property, which must be funded by their respective budgets.  In case of serious disturbances, armed forces may be dispatched to a specific region at the request of the appropriate authorities.

Federal law defines restricted firearms, ammunition, accessories and equipment suitable for military or law-enforcement use only.

In 2011, an Interministerial Administrative Act entered into force establishing new guidelines for the use of firearms by public safety officers, who are now required to use at least two other non-lethal weapons before firing any firearm.  If a shooting occurs, its circumstances must be explained.

Recently, a poor area in the city of Rio de Janeiro was occupied by armed forces for the purpose of implementing a police unit designed to bring peace and help the police and people work together.  However, the measure was received with indifference and suspicion by the population.

I.  Introduction

Article 144 of the Brazilian Constitution addresses public security. It provides that public security is a duty of the State and the right and responsibility of all persons.  It further states that public security is exercised to preserve public order and the security of persons and property, through the federal police, federal highway police, federal railway police, civil police, military police, and military fire brigades.[1]  Article 144 also provides that municipalities may establish municipal guards to protect their property, services and facilities.[2]

Funding for the federal police forces comes from the federal budget.  Civil police, military police, and military fire brigades are funded by the states.  In 2014, the funding for the federal police was R$4.8 billion (approximately US$2.2 billion).  The amount allocated to the acquisition of weapons was not specified.[3]

It appears that the police may not receive military equipment and arms.  However, at the request of a state governor, the federal government may send the armed forces (army, navy, and air force) to the requesting state to ensure law and order.[4]

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II.  Police Weapons and Equipment

A.  Federal Police

1.  Individual Weapons

The researched legislation does not specify which individual weapons are used by the federal police.  However, Decree No. 3,665 of November 20, 2000, defines restricted and permitted firearms, ammunition, accessories, and equipment.[5]

Article 16 lists the materials subject to restricted use, which include but are not limited to 

  1. (I)   weapons, ammunition, equipment, and accessories that have some of the characteristics of the armaments used by the national armed forces with respect to their tactical, strategic, and technical use;
  2. (II)   weapons, ammunition, accessories, and equipment that are not identical or similar to the armaments used by the national armed forces but have characteristics that make them suitable only for military or law-enforcement use;
  3. (III)  short firearms, the common ammunition for which has, on exiting the barrel, an energy higher than three hundred foot-pounds or four hundred seven Joules—ammunition such as the .357 Magnum, 9 Luger, .38 Super Auto, .40 S&W, .44 SPL, .44 Magnum, .45 Colt and .45 Auto;
  4. (IV) long striped firearms, the common ammunition for which has, on exiting the barrel, an energy higher than one thousand foot-pounds or one thousand three hundred fifty-five Joules—ammunition such as the .22-250, .223 Remington, .243 Winchester, .270 Winchester, 7 Mauser, .30-06, .308 Winchester, 7.62 x 39, .357 Magnum, .375 Winchester and .44 Magnum;
  5. (V)   automatic firearms of any caliber.[6]

Article 17 of Decree No. 3,665 defines permitted firearms, ammunition and equipment, which include, but are not limited to:

  1. (I)   short, repeating, or semiautomatic firearms, the common ammunition for which has, on exiting the barrel, an energy of up to three hundred foot-pounds or four hundred seven Joules—ammunition such as the .22 LR, .25 Auto, .32 Auto, .32 S&W, .38 SPL and .380 Auto;
  2. (II)   long striped, repeating, or semiautomatic firearms, the common ammunition for which has, on exiting the barrel, a maximum energy of one thousand pounds or one thousand three hundred fifty-five Joules ammunition such as the .22 LR, .32-20, .38-40 and .44-40;
  3. (III)  smooth bore, repeating, or semiautomatic firearms with a caliber of twelve or lower and with a barrel length equal to or greater than twenty-four inches or six hundred ten millimeters; firearms with a smaller caliber, with any barrel length; and their permitted ammunition.[7]

2.  Other Equipment

The website of the federal police provides several images of vehicles, trucks, helicopters, airplanes, and boats, which apparently compose the equipment used by the federal police to fulfill its mission.[8]  However, it was not possible to determine their specifications, the amount of equipment available, or its purpose.

B.  Local Police Forces

1.  Individual Weapons

The definition established by Decree No. 3,655 in regard to restricted and permitted firearms, ammunition, accessories, and equipment also applies to local police forces.

2.  Other Equipment

According to a news report, the police of the state of Rio de Janeiro recently acquired eight armored trucks manufactured in South Africa.   These trucks, known as Paramount Mavericks, will be used by the Special Police Operations Battalion (Batalhão de Operações Policiais Especiais) (four trucks), the Coordination of Special Resources (Coordenadoria de Recursos Especiais) (two trucks), and the Police Shock Battalion (Batalhão de Polícia de Choque) (two trucks)The Maverick trucks were designed to be military vehicles and can withstand heavy-caliber shootings and grenades.[9]

C.  Special Police Forces

1.  Individual Weapons

The definition established by Decree No. 3,655 in regard to restricted and permitted firearms, ammunition, accessories, and equipment also applies to special police forces.

2.  Other Equipment

No information is available in regard to special vehicles, weapons, or equipment used by special police forces.

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III.  Rules on the Use of Police Weapons

On December 31, 2010, the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Human Rights issued an Interministerial Administrative Act (Portaria) establishing new guidelines for the use of firearms by public safety officers.[10]  The new rules aim to preserve the human rights and safety of civilians, and to gradually reduce rates of mortality resulting from actions involving public safety officers.  The guidelines are composed of twenty-five new rules and apply to the federal police, federal highway police, national penitentiary department, and national public security force.[11]

Among the changes is a requirement that safety officers make use of at least two other nonlethal weapons before firing any firearm.  In addition, if a shooting occurs, it is now necessary to provide a report explaining why the weapon was fired.[12]  The guidelines also state that police must avoid using firearms against a person on the run who is unarmed, or even against one in possession of a weapon who does not pose an immediate danger of death or serious injury to law enforcement officials or third parties.[13]

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IV.  Recent Incidents

On April 5, 2014, an area inhabited by approximately 130,000 people called Complexo da Maré, composed of fifteen slums in a suburb of the city of Rio de Janeiro, was occupied by federal army and navy personnel using armored vehicles.  The action preceded the implementation of an operation by a Police Pacification Unit (Unidade de Polícia Pacificadora)[14] in the area.[15]

On the previous night, the Secretariat of Security announced that in fifteen days the police had killed sixteen people in the area; eight people had been injured; and 101 weapons, 2,252 cartridges of ammunition, and a great quantity of drugs had been apprehended.[16]

According to news reports, the arrival of the military was treated with a mixture of indifference and suspicion by most of the local residents and merchants, who did not expect the federal armed forces to behave much differently than the state military police.[17]

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Eduardo Soares
Senior Foreign Law Specialist
September 2014


[1] Constituição Federal art. 144, http://www.planalto.gov.br/ccivil_03/Constituicao/Constituicao.htm (last visited Sept. 9, 2014).

[2] Id. art. 144(§8). 

[3] Vol. IV, Tomo I Ministério do Planejamento, Orçamento Anual de 2014 at 209 (2013), http://www.plan ejamento.gov.br/ministerio.asp?index=8&ler=s798.

[4] Lei Complementar No. 97, de 9 de Junho de 1999, art.15, http://www.planalto.gov.br/ccivil_03/leis/lcp/Lcp97 compilado.htm; Decreto No. 3897, de 24 de Agosto de 2001, art. 2(§2), http://www.planalto.gov.br/ccivil_ 03/decreto/2001/d3897.htm.

[5] Decreto No. 3.665, de 20 de Novembro de 2000, art. 15, http://www.planalto.gov.br/ccivil_03/ decreto/D3665.htm.

[6] Id. art. 16 (translation by author).  For a full list of weapons, ammunition, equipment, and accessories of restricted use, see Decree No. 3,655.

[7] Id. art. 17 (translation by author).  For a full list of weapons, ammunition, equipment, and accessories of permitted use, see Decree No. 3,655.

[8] Banco de Imagens, Agência de Notícias da Polícia Federal, http://www.dpf.gov.br/agencia/banco-de-imagens?b_start:int=0 (last visited Sept. 9, 2014).

[9] Julio Cabral, Conheça o Novo Caveirão da Polícia do Rio de Janeiro, Revista Auto Esporte, Apr. 11, 2013, http://revistaautoesporte.globo.com/Noticias/noticia/2013/04/conheca-o-novo-caveirao-da-policia-do-rio-de-janeiro.html.   BOPE is a special force of the military police of Rio de Janeiro, which acts in critical situations.  CORE is a special unit of the civil police of the state of Rio de Janeiro used for police intervention requiring exceptional training.  BPChq is a military police organization within the military police of Rio de Janeiro, which focuses on the control of civil disturbances in open and closed areas.

[10] Portaria Interministerial No. 4226, de 31 de Dezembro de 2010, http://download.rj.gov.br/documentos/ 10112/1188889/DLFE-54510.pdf/portaria4226usodaforca.pdf.

[11] Nova Regra para Uso de Arma de Fogo por Agentes Públicos Visa Preservar Direito de Civis, Portal Brasil (Apr. 1, 2011), http://www.brasil.gov.br/cidadania-e-justica/2011/04/nova-regra-para-uso-de-arma-de-fogo-por-agentes-publicos-visa-preservar-direito-de-civis.

[12] Id.

[13] Id.

[14] The UPP program was designed according to the principles of proximity policing, a concept that goes beyond community policing and is based on a partnership between the people and the institutions involved in public security.  The program includes partnerships between local, state, and federal governments and different agents of civil society, and aims to permanently recover communities dominated by drug trafficking and to ensure a closer relationship between the government and the population.  Segurança, UPP – Unidade de Polícia Pacificadora, Governo do Rio de Janeiro (May 26, 2014), http://www.rj.gov.br/web/seseg/exibeconteudo?article-id=1349728

[15] Gustavo Maia, Após Polícia Matar 16 em 15 Dias, Exército Ocupa Complexo da Maré, no Rio, UOL Notícias (Apr. 5, 2014), http://noticias.uol.com.br/cotidiano/ultimas-noticias/2014/04/05/exercito-inicia-patrulhamento-na-mare-na-manha-deste-sabado.htm.

[16] Id.

[17] Id.