Fri, Feb 18, 2011 - Page 7 News List

First woman named to lead Rio’s police amid wide-reaching corruption scandal

UNDER INVESTIGATION:Rio de Janeiro State’s security chief says that with the public supporting the government, the entire police culture can be changed


With a police corruption scandal growing in Rio de Janeiro, Jose Mariano Beltrame, the security chief for Rio de Janeiro State, has ousted the head of the beleaguered Civil Police and named the first woman ever to head the force in the city.

Four days after expressing confidence in the former chief of the Civil Police, Allan Turnowski, Beltrame let him go after a telephone recording revealed that Turnowski had tipped off an inspector to a widespread investigation by the Federal Police into police corruption in Rio.

Turnowski denied doing anything improper, but Brazilian news reports said the inspector who was tipped off was the son of the head of a militia that used terror and brute force to control a Rio slum.

On Tuesday, Beltrame replaced Turnowski with Martha Rocha, a 27-year veteran of the Civil Police. Rocha, 51, is the fifth Civil Police chief in the last five years.

Some of her predecessors were removed by Rio officials because of suspected improprieties. Two of them were arrested under suspicion of criminal activity.

Rio’s police forces have been plagued for decades by widespread corruption that has reached to the very top of the state’s security apparatus.

Last Friday, Beltrame seemed to respond to critics who had said that the program to “pacify” slums controlled by heavily armed drug traffickers would not be enough to drastically curb violence and prepare Rio for its twin billing as host to the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics.

To really stop crime in the city, both sides agree, police corruption has to be tackled as well.

Beltrame said he would make cracking down on the problem a priority this year.

“This time Rio’s residents are supporting the government, and this didn’t happen in the past,” said Amaury de Souza, a political analyst in Rio.

“This is an extraordinary moment to begin to arrest corrupt policemen and change the entire culture inside the military and civil police,” de Souza said.

Still, police corruption in Rio is endemic, and efforts to tackle it have been made before, only to fail.

One reason that Rio has a better chance of lasting reform this time, analysts said, is Beltrame, a former Federal Police officer who Cabral said on Tuesday had “absolute command” over public security policy in the state.

Beltrame announced Friday that an investigation into police corruption had led to the arrest of 38 people, including 30 civil and military police officers.

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