The Portuguese police force – accused of aggressive and prejudiced behavior by several European reports – will be the target of a comprehensive anti-discrimination program.
In addition to encouraging the hiring of more women and people of different ethnic and racial backgrounds, the plan, which has just come into force, creates the figure of specialized human rights officers in the entire police force in the country. These officers will be responsible for coordinating the implementation of anti-discrimination actions in their institutions and monitoring the progress of the measures adopted.
The form of recruitment of the security forces will also change. The aim is to broaden diversity and identify extremist elements even before hiring.
A working group will propose changes so that screening tests include ways to identify individuals with “reduced levels of empathy, tendencies towards radical and intolerant postures, reduced ability to cope with frustration, reduced ability to cope with frustration, exacerbated and uncontrolled aggression ”, among other characteristics considered threats the police.
One of the main goals of the government is also to attract more women and people of different ethnic and social backgrounds to police careers. According to the document, “the more diverse security forces and services, in addition to being more ‘representative’ of the community itself, are also more effective in preventing and combating discriminatory practices by its staff.”
According to data from Eurostat (the statistical office of the European Union), the average feminization of the Union police is 16.9%. In Portugal, the GNR (Guarda Nacional Republicana), which operates in rural areas, and the PSP (Public Security Police), which works in the urban perimeter, have 7% and 8% women respectively. In the specific case of the presence of women in the police force, the plan sets a target of an increase of 3% for each competition organized.
The Minister of Internal Administration, Eduardo Cabrita, who oversees the police in Portugal, stressed the importance of inclusion actions from the selection processes and affirmed that there was work to “adapt the forces of security to the plural reality of Portuguese society ”.
Responsible for developing the plan, Anabela Cabral Fernandes, head of the Igai (General Inspectorate of Internal Administration), warned that the behavior of the police on social networks will also be scrutinized with “great attention”.
“Social networks are the modern public place, they represent the public space even when they work in a closed group. Anyone who performs functions aimed at ensuring social peace and the normal functioning of the rule of law must be ready to do so at any time of their life. They cannot, one more step, be the guarantors of the values of the rule of law, so that, when they are on social networks, they try against these same values that they have sworn to honor and to defend, ”he said.
The government does not attribute the changes to any particular case, but in recent years Portuguese security forces have come under criticism from Council of Europe reports. Last Wednesday (24), a memorandum signed by Human Rights Commissioner Dunja Mijatović returned to the subject.
“The reports received by the commissioner show an increasing number of cases of racially motivated police misconduct. The Commissioner also received very disturbing allegations concerning the infiltration of far-right movements into the police force, as well as the increased use of force in operations in areas inhabited mainly by people of African descent, migrants and Gypsies ”, indicates the text. .
In November, the Council of Europe’s Anti-Torture Committee particularly criticized the situation of detainees in the country. Although he says that most prisoners are treated properly, the document indicates that there are a considerable number of complaints.
“The Portuguese authorities must recognize that the ill-treatment inflicted by the police is a reality, and not only the result of the actions of certain guilty officers”, indicates the text.
The death of a Ukrainian citizen after assaults at the remand center at Lisbon airport, in the custody of the SEF (Foreigners and Borders Service), has helped put the issue of police violence on the table. The case occurred in March 2020, but gained momentum in October.
Currently, three SEF agents are on trial for the murder of 40-year-old Ihor Homenyuk. The initial police version that the Ukrainian died of seizures was denied after a report from the doctor in charge of the autopsy. The lawsuit points out that SEF members beat and tortured Homenyuk inside the airport facilities. In addition to being beaten, he was handcuffed for over 15 hours with his hands behind his back. The affair led to the fall of the leadership of the SEF and the announcement of a reform of the immigration service, which should lose its police character.
In the assessment of anthropologist Otávio Raposo, researcher and assistant professor at ISCTE (Instituto Universitário de Lisboa), the Portuguese police show aggressive and structural racist behavior. He points out, however, that the type of police violence in Portugal is quite different from what exists in Brazil.
“In Rio de Janeiro, for example, the police are responsible for a third of the deaths. Brazilian police are murderous. It does not make sense to use this adjective in Portugal. But we can say, yes, that the Portuguese police are violent, that these are not episodic cases, ”he said.
“Police violence in Portugal mainly concerns young people from the periphery, in marginalized neighborhoods. It’s not episodic, it’s every day. There is a structural problem in the functioning of the police. “
The researcher considers that the implementation of an anti-discrimination plan is positive, but it is necessary to structurally change the way companies operate. The ideal scenario, according to him, would be the inclusion of communities in the development of security strategies. “The police have a hierarchy, they have a modus operandi that makes violence possible. Changes must therefore start from the top. “
Even with reports of assault and discrimination, the Portuguese police are responsible for a low number of deaths, especially with firearms. In 2018 and 2019, there were no fatalities (with gunfire) in the operations of the Portuguese security forces. In 2017, there were only two, including a Brazilian, killed by mistake after a police approach. The car the woman was in was mistaken for that of the fleeing assailants and was shot 40 times. The police were acquitted.