How much has changed since the Globo reporter’s 1992 exposé on São Paulo’s “police who kill”? It’s a fair question. The Estado goes looking for answers.
At the time this happened, the two marginals were already dead and stowed in the trunk of the squad cars. They were already dead. Two plainclothes troopers got in the pickup to simulate the hot pursuit, but what nearly spoiled the thing was that a TV news team was nearby and started filming. But when the pickup stopped and the shooting started, the TV news people stopped. So this is what happened: The TV news report showed one thing, but it benefited the police, because it did not show what really happened there.
It has yet to appear on the Web site of the Estadao daily here in São Paulo, but the front page of the Sunday edition’s Metrópole section has quite a tale to tell.
The very pointed eyebrow to the story: “Police Violence: São Paulo’s version of Elite da Tropa.”
And there is nothing fictional or Hollywood glamorous about it.
It is the standard sinister tale — “no one dead was innocent” — you have heard with some frequency from metropolitan police in Brazil for decades.
A trooper from ROTA, “the feared trooper elite of the São Paulo military elite,” has been working with Estadão reporters for a year now on crimes committed by the police unit featured in Caco Barcellos’ Rota 66: The Story of Police Who Kill (my Editora Globo 8th Edition is from 1992).
Let me just give you a quick sample, translating off the newsprint:
P. narrates a case that took place during the wave of attacks [on São Paulo military police in May 2006.] According to the official version, four “bandits” had stolen a vehicle and were going to use it in an attack. Two died and two fled. But the story according to this ROTA trooper is quite different.”
The story is that the police killed some random guys, then staged a pursuit and shootout in order to claim the incident as a clash with the PCC criminal organization.
“I feel supported because I can count on my Fourth Brigade.” Billboard, Medellín, Colombia. The 4th Brigade reportedly (according to cooperating witness testimony) shot random donkey-drovers along the road and dressed them up in fatigues in order to claim them as “guerrilla” kills. While conducting joint patrols with paramilitary forces. The Medellín approach to public security may be more like Rio’s or São Paulo’s than the Naked Mayor or Kassab are letting on.
On doctored “bulletins of occurrence,” see also
A local TV news team filmed part of the staged pursuit and shootout, according to this anonymus source, but failed to check it.
It ran the story just as the ROTA troopers wanted it to be run: As the dramatic death of two PCC members in a clash with police.
Just like in the movies.
“There were these two guys. The police went and got a pickup truck from a friend of one of the troopers. They put the two guys in the truck, while the officer rustled up the weapon, which was back at Aguiar Base (the ROTA barracks on Av. Tiradentes). So then this other officer, who is the lieutenant’s brother, got some addresses and rigged up the letter (a forged list of supposed PCC targets planted on the bodies, along with an assault rifle.)
At the time this happened, the two marginals were already dead and stowed in the trunk of the squad cars. They were already dead. It was two plainclothes troopers who got in the pickup to simulate the hot pursuit, but what nearly spoiled the thing was that a TV news team was nearby and started filming.
But when the pickup stopped and the shooting started, the TV news people stopped. So this is what happened: The TV news report showed one thing, but it benefited the police, because it did not show what really happened there.
In an odd way, then, TV news coverage of the incident was just as fictional as Elite da Tropa, the action film on Rio’s BOPE that is about to bust out internationally.
Mr. Nassif is right: The Estado has some really gutsy and civic-minded journalists working for it (as does the reportagem local and some of the bureaus of the Folha, its market-dominating competitor, I should also say).
And editors who apparently mostly let them just do their jobs.
It is not by accident that when the iG news portal decided to formally adopt modern editorial standards and practices, it selected the manual produced for Estado reporters and editors. Which I own a copy of myself. I collect such things. It has its idiosyncracies, but I actually think it’s better overall than the AP Stylebook. Sincerely.
The most abused paragraph of which is the injunction to always get “both sides” of the story.
As if every case and controversy had two, and only two, sides to it.
At any rate, let me get back to my reading: The minisection (pp. C3-C8) combines coverage with the Elite da Tropa/Tropa de Elite media phenomenon and the Estadão‘s own reporting on ROTA, including a response from the commander of the Shock Troop.
Who seems to forget, in his statements to the Estadão, that the PM’s so-called Operation Saturation has been rebranded, whimsically, as the Virada Social.
This promises to be a rich, ongoing mine of investigative reporting. And more power to the reportagem of the Estadão, I say.
I generally buy the Estadão and merely browse the Folha online these days — mostly to read the column of its public editor, Mario Magalhães.
Overall, I find, the ESP has a bit less noise than the FSP. Less gabbling punditry. More hard news. More signal.
And why should we care?
Look, ROTA battlewagons occasionally roll through our neighborhood.
And you wonder just what kind of insane nonsense is likely to break out in this generally tranquil neighbhorhood with these guys around?
You would sometimes almost rather there be no cops around at all. Even in this neighborhood.
Or again: My wife and I were out for a stroll yesterday and a DENARC Chevy Suburban rolled by.
My wife just kind of sucked in her breath and went, “Oh, jeez, let’s turn the corner.”
Back in Brooklyn, the fact that a police patrol car now hangs out regularly by the bodega across the street from us is almost universally viewed as a good thing.
Nice enough guys. “Call me Tom.” Filling up on doughnuts. We often point this out as a selling point to potential lessors: “We have good community policing coverage here. The last drive-by shooting was more than three years ago.”
Here, your first thought is, “oh, shit, anything can happen with these people hanging around.” I am sorry to say it. I try not to get hysterical about urban risks. But I also really do not want to have to identify my tropical Mrs. on a slab one of these days.
Or have her identifying me on one. Or our nieces and nephews, or one of the the molecada produced by our friends and neighbors in profusion. We want to keep balas perdidas out of the funky little park where our shaggy Corisco surfs the Internet of dogs.
On yesterday’s Metrópole coverage package, see São Paulo: “PCC Planned New Offensive”