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Brazil: Female Officer Strip Searched by Male Investigators

On February 18, journalist Fábio Pannunzio's blog [pt] and the TV station Rede Band [pt] released a 13-minute video in which a female desk officer with the state police of São Paulo was discharged and strip searched by male investigators from the statewide Office of Internal Affairs.

A policial sendo despida por delegados

Screenshot from the video in which a female desk officer is being handcuffed and stripped by police officers

The case goes back to 2009. At the time, according to Pannunzio and Rede Band, the desk officer had received money from a person accused of carrying a weapon as a bribe for not formally imprisoning the accused. When the delegation of all male representatives from the state police's Office of Internal Affairs showed up at the precinct, they obligated the female desk officer to submit to a strip search in order to find the money. She did not object to submitting herself to a full search.

To the contrary; she merely asked that she be searched by female police officers. But her cries were in vain. Handcuffed and thrown to the ground, she quickly had her underwear and lingerie ripped off by a representative who subsequently affirmed that he had indeed found the supposed bribe money on the desk officer's person. On account of the cash found, the desk officer was discharged and now faces criminal bribery charges.

The full video of the incident can be viewed on Vimeo.

The blogosphere immediately expressed its repudiation of the Office of Internal Affairs’ attitude, stressing the illegality of the measures taken and the office's disregard for the basic principles of a democratic state of law.

Vladimir Aras’ Blog do Vlad states that the search performed by the representatives of the Office of Internal Affairs and the aggression taken towards the desk officer were the true crimes documented in the video [pt]:

Ao desnudarem à força uma mulher algemada e humilhada no chão de uma delegacia, esses agentes da lei não expuseram apenas “as vergonhas” da suspeita. Exibiram de forma exuberante o vexaminoso cotidiano de parte da Polícia brasileira, useira e vezeira em afrontar direitos humanos dos cidadãos.

When the representatives of the Office of Internal Affairs forcefully stripped a handcuffed women who had been humiliatingly thrown onto the precinct's floor, these officers of the law did more than merely expose the suspect's “shameful actions.” They exaggeratedly brought to light the Brazilian police force's shameful, commonplace and frequent disregard for human rights.

In the blog Flit Paralisant, police officer Guerra reminded readers that the desk officer had filed a complaint with the Attorney General's Office in 2009 to investigate the abuse of power but that the claim had been swiftly dismissed. The state attorney in the case saw no indication of any crimes committed by investigators from the Office of Internal Affairs. Copies of the request for dismissal are available on the blog as is an e-mail relating the case sent by the desk officer that same year [pt]:

O Dr. Eduardo então mandou que eu me despisse por inteira, passei a ficar indignada pois jamais tiraria minhas vestes na frente de oito homens desconhecidos e cheguei a solicitar de joelhos que fosse acionada uma delegada, investigadora ou escriva da corregedoria, visto que propus retirar a roupa somente na frente da policial feminina, respondendo o delegado que não confiava na policial e dizendo com tom ameaçador que só sairia dali ao me ver “pelada” (…)

Dr. Eduardo then ordered me to strip down entirely; and I was offended because I would never take off my clothes in front of eight unknown men. So I begged them on my knees that they call in a female officer, investigator or desk officer from the Office of Internal Affairs since I offered to take off my clothes only in front of a policewoman; the male investigator responded that he did not trust a police woman and threatened that he would only leave the office after seeing me “in the flesh.”

The inspector for the state police of Rio de Janeiro, Eduardo Stein, who also edits the blog Caso de Polícia (Police Case), vented his frustration [pt]:

Infelizmente já vi em vídeos do Youtube centenas de cenas de violência policial praticadas contra cidadãos inocentes ou criminosos. São momentos em que sinto grande e verdadeira vergonha de compartilhar de um cargo policial com determinadas pessoas.

Mas, verdadeiramente, hoje não fiquei só enojado ou envergonhado. Senti na verdade uma ânsia de vômito. Desgosto. Abominável.

Unfortunately, I have seen hundreds of Youtube videos documenting police violence against both innocent citizens and criminals. Every time I feel such immense and profound shame at sharing a profession with certain individuals.

But, truthfully, today I did not feel just disgusted or ashamed. I actually felt sick to my stomach. Nauseated. It's abominable.

Danillo Ferreira, a police officer with the military police of Bahia, in his blog Abordagem Policial (Police Approach), states that the behavior of the investigators from the Office of Internal Affairs is not proper and is not what one would expect of an officer [pt]:

Um ato que merece o repúdio público, mesmo que haja provas que atestem o crime da ex-policial.

These actions merit public objection, even if there is proof of the former desk officer's having committed a crime.

After the video was released, the Office of Internal Affairs, cowering from the public outcry, held that is officers committed no irregularities. The blog Escreva, Lola, Escreva (Write, Lola, Write) [pt], by Lola Aronovich, stressed that the incident may be rooted in police officer's sexual satisfaction:

Isso me fez lembrar o que Susan Brownmiller conta em seu clássico dos anos 70, Contra a Nossa Vontade. Era comum vítimas terem que narrar nos mínimos detalhes o seu estupro para policiais homens que ora não acreditavam nelas, ora pareciam se excitar com a narrativa. Isso quando essas vítimas não ouviam do policial: “Mas quem iria querer te estuprar?”

This reminds me of what Susan Brownmiller recounts in her 1970s classic Against Our Will. It was common for victims to have to narrate their rape down to the most minute detail either because male police officers did not believe them or because the officers seemed to become sexually aroused by the narrative. The victims were subject to this humiliation, of course, when they were faced with male officers’ goading, “But who would want to rape you?”

According to blogger Luka of Bidê Brasil, violence is run of the mill for the Brazilian police force, which assumed its current structure during the years of the military dictatorship:

O caso da ex-escrivã só mostra o quanto os direitos das mulheres são colocados de lado em diversas ocasiões, ainda mais quando vemos que havia 2 policiais femininas no local e que nada fizeram para não acontecer tal afronta, fora a lastimável declaração da Corregedora e do Governador dando razão a ação dos policiais. No final das contas este caso acaba sendo apenas mais uma ilustração de como o tucanato trata os direitos humanos e em especial os direitos humanos das mulheres, como se fossem descartáveis.

The case of the former desk officer simply shows the extent to which women's human rights are pushed aside on multiple occasions, even more glaring given the fact that two female officers were present and did nothing to prevent the incident. Not to mention the pitiful statement by the Office of Internal Affairs and the governor condoning the male investigators’ actions. In the end, this case is yet another example of how the centrist Brazilian Social Democratic Party views human rights, and especially women's human rights, as disposable.

Many twitterers defended the female desk officer, but, even more surprising were those who supported the male investigative officers:

@fabioninja [DJ Fabio Ninja]
Pessoal fala em abuso de poder (quanto ao caso da escrivã nua), mas ninguém menciona que, de fato, o delegado estava correto.

@fabioninja [DJ Fabio Ninja] Everyone's talking about the abuse of power (in the case of the naked desk officer), but nobody's mentioning the fact that the investigator was actually right.

@rodaabaiana [Iemai]
Sobre o caso da escrivã: se ela não tivesse cometido o crime, o ato não seria necessário. Criminoso tentando sair de vítima me cansa.

@rodaabaiana [Iemai]
As for the case of the desk officer: if she hadn't committed the crime, this incident wouldn't even be necessary. The criminal trying to play victim wears me out.

@allandematos [Allan Matos]
Sobre o caso da ex-escrivã nua: Acho que realmente houve exagero, mas a atitude dos delegados foi digna. Corrupção deve sempre ser combatida.

@allandematos [Allan Matos]
As for the case of the naked former desk officer: I think they really did go overboard, but the investigators’ attitude was dignified. Corruption should be fought.
Maria do Rosário, Ministra de Direitos Humanos

Maria do Rosário, the Minister of Human Rights Photo by Agência Brasil, distributed under a Creative Commons — Attribution 2.5 Brazil license.

In a message to the press, Human Rights Minister Maria do Rosário called for the discharge of all police officers responsible [pt]. Fearing that the case would head to the federal courts, Governor Geraldo Alckmin, in addition to honoring the minister's request, discharged the director of the Office of Internal Affairs as well [pt] and further indicated that the state security secretary might also be discharged.

Oddly enough, the investigators had been complaining of the harsh measures [pt] adopted by the state police's Office of Internal Affairs for some time and had fought to discharge the office's directors.

The security secretary was appointed by former Governor José Serra, unlike the political group under the current Governor Alckmin, who wished to appoint someone of his personal trust to the post [pt]. Considering the consequences of this case, it will be very difficult to discover who was responsible for releasing the video.

  • Jacinto

    I’ve just seen the video, and cannot understand how those officers have not been accused of abuse of authority and other crimes against the human dignity. If the judicial system in Brazil doesn’t work, activists should take the clothes off the policeman in red, and leave him nude in the middle of Sao Paolo for him to feel the same humiliation he has submitted the desk officer to. Shameful.

  • http://www.melissa-mann.com Melissa Mann

    Jacinto, I translated this post and could barely get through the video without feeling the urge to vomit. Such an embarrassment. Not to mention the frustration at hearing people say that the indecency, humiliation and total lack of human rights is justified because of the desk officer’s actions is such Machiavellian short-sightedness. Argggg!

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