What Is Missing for a Quality UPP Police Presence

Before I begin, let me make clear that the information below is personal opinion, without generalizations.

Since the police entered and the militarization of the Jacarezinho favela on October 14, 2012, a policy the government baptized Pacifying Police Units — better known as UPP — little has changed in the favela where I was born and raised.

I am an activist, a photographer for the Agência Imagens do Povo, and a photography instructor. As I turn 25, I see part of the city of Rio de Janeiro entering a process of elitization and, as Representative Marcelo Freixo puts it, becoming a real corporate-city. The map of the UPPs shows very clearly what the interests of the current government are.

By Léo LimaSimply put, the UPPs are established in the central zones of the city, close to where the Games will take place and where tourists will spend their time during the World Cup and the Olympics (2014-2016). The UPP has everything at its disposition to be an innovative project, as long as it is implemented in Greater Rio de Janeiro, as a whole, without mandatory, arbitrary choices or for economic interests, attributed to real estate speculation, such as in the South Zone favelas that are close to the beach.

Police occupation, photo by Léo LimaThe UPP needs to be a city-building project, not the militarization of space. It is not the UPP that needs to exist, it is the police as a whole that needs to change. Pacification won’t exist without an open dialogue with residents, locally active. Pacification won’t exist without an intelligent project that integrates the resident and school. Pacification will never exist if the UPP is managed by the military police and not by local cultural operators. The labels, favela with UPP, favela without UPP, should not exist. The government needs to articulate a discussion with organized society so that information reaches other residents. Because Peace isn’t produced with weapons, without a plan. Peace isn’t just for some select places, if handled this way it’s merely a marketing campaign, a type of portfolio.

Police occupation, photo by Léo LimaThe situation in Jacarezinho is no different. The biggest changes were: the exchange of garbage collection dumpsters, that are still very few due to the high demand in the favela; all mototaxi drivers now use helmets; Light electricity utility changed part of the illumination of the favela’s entrances; the provisional disarmament of local dealers; the removal of ironwork that prevented cars and trucks from entering; and removal of crack users from the site. However, the latter does not help much, since these drug users are not in treatment, therefore they go to other favelas, in this case, to Maré.

Police officer, photo by Léo LimaThe hope is that we residents will conduct this project, that the government will trust and assign this responsibility to those who actually have an interest in improving the favela. It is necessary to discuss drug use, addiction, the bailes funk, and certainly to maintain constant dialogue with the commanders and officers who are currently installed in the favela. It is important to discuss and act, hold accountable and propose changes so that there are no more events like the one last week, where 14-year-old Patric was run over while riding a bicycle. The favela without electricity, the police was called and the officers said they could do nothing, so they did not do anything. They called the firefighters once, but it was busy and they did not try again. Residents had to manage on their own, as they have always done. And after an hour and twenty minutes, firefighters arrived on the spot, not knowing what to do in a case like that. In other words, these professionals were unprepared. Luckily, it was only “an exposed fracture.” If the case had been more serious, Patric would have certainly died waiting for help, or we might have done something wrong while trying to save him.

The government must establish a dialogue with the population. We lack a city planned together with civil society. The current government will not fool anyone saying that Rio de Janeiro is at peace, because nowhere is.