Brazil: Civilians Killed Per Officer Murdered More Than Doubled From 2020


By Camila Boehm

In Brazil, one police officer died on duty for every 250 civilians killed by the police, also in service, in 2022—the highest number in the historical series—as per the 3rd  edition of the Monitor of the Lethal Use of Force in Latin America and the Caribbean. The proportion has more than doubled compared to 2020, when 114 civilians were killed by the police for every security agent killed while working.

Released Tuesday (Apr. 16) by the Brazilian Public Security Forum (FBSP), the survey examines 12 indicators of police use and abuse of force, including data from nine countries on the continent: Brazil, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Jamaica, Mexico, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela.

“This discrepancy between police officers killed on duty and people killed by on-duty police officers shows there’s an abuse of police force. Most striking about this ratio is the fact that there’s no support in the data for the standard police narrative that the officers died in confrontations and used lethal force because they were in confrontations,” FBSP researcher Dennis Pacheco told Agência Brasil.

In recent years, there has been a reduction in the number of police officers killed on assignment in Brazil, while the number of deaths caused by police officers has only stabilized, he pointed out. “When it comes to the right to life and non-discrimination, the democratic transition in Brazil has not happened,” he argued.

In 2022, the total number of civilians killed by police in Brazil reached 5,619, while deaths of police officers on the job totaled 22. In 2020, these were 5,958 and 52 respectively. The forum reports that today some of Brazil’s indicators are closer to the reality of countries like El Salvador and Venezuela than to countries like Chile and Colombia.

Brazil has a higher rate of civilians killed by on-duty police officers (2.77 civilians killed per 100 thousand residents) than countries such as Colombia (0.52), El Salvador (1.45), and Venezuela (2.6), according to press data in 2022. In this indicator, Brazil is surpassed only by Jamaica (4.23) and Trinidad and Tobago (4.11).

The survey also revealed that Brazil surpassed all the nations examined in the rate of civilians killed by police officers relative to the total number of officers in service: 11.28 civilians killed for every 1 thousand police officers.

As for misguided public security policies, Pacheco cited the focus on proactive policing, which places excessive emphasis on high-visibility actions and has little impact on reducing and preventing violence.

“We also make use of a great deal of discretion. The military police have a lot of freedom and autonomy to approach people in any way they want, without any control mechanisms. There’s also the responsibility of the judiciary and the prosecutors, who tend to be lenient and complicit with the current state of affairs and the way the police have been acting,” he said.

Abuse of force

The high proportion of homicides committed by police officers on duty in relation to total police interventions with firearms (11.8 percent in 2022) is quite revealing when it comes to demonstrating the disproportionate use of police force in Brazil, the document states. Lethality is shown to be historically concentrated in some states—such as Amapá (28.7%), Bahia (19.2%), Goiás (26.4%), Pará (18.1%), Rio de Janeiro (25.9%), and Sergipe (19.9%).

Also according to the study, the abuse of police force has been approached as a problem to be solved with targeted policies, in a bid to bring in transparency and control over police activity.

One example occurred in the state of São Paulo, following the 2020 launch of the Olho Vivo program by the Military Police, where officers were provided with individual body cameras to record their actions. By the end of 2022, 62 of the 135 battalions of the São Paulo force were under the program—45.9 percent of the total, as per FBSP data.

The FBSP further identified a 62.7 percent reduction in deaths due to interventions by military police at work between 2019, the period immediately before the cameras were deployed, and 2022. The data show a surprising impact in lowering the use of lethal force by the police in the state in that time span.


Agência Brasil (ABr) is the national public news agency, run by the Brazilian government. It is a part of the public media corporation Empresa Brasil de Comunicação (EBC), created in 2007 to unite two government media enterprises Radiobrás and TVE (Televisão Educativa).

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