PovGov’s police partner comes to Stanford for data analysis training


The PovGov research team trains Major Alexandre Leite at Stanford University.
Photo credit: 
Vanessa Melo

In recognition of the need to engage practitioners in the development of sensitive and complex research projects carried out by scholars, Stanford’s Program on Poverty and Governance (PovGov) has launched an ongoing initiative that brings key partners from the field to Stanford to work closely with doctoral students, post-docs and principal investigators, promoting intellectual exchange and collaboration between researchers and experts working on the ground. The initiative aims to help researchers understand essential aspects of different research databases; properly address questions that arise during the data analysis process; and find avenues to further discuss important findings.

Recognizing the importance of promoting these types of initiatives to increase the impact of research projects, PovGov Director, FSI Senior Fellow and Associate Professor of Political Science Beatriz Magaloni has established several partnerships with experts and practitioners in the field, developing innovative mechanisms to deeply involve collaborators with PovGov’s work. For Magaloni, this approach is the base of policy-oriented research projects and is an essential step in giving legitimacy to the study, sustaining its development and improving its impact on the ground.


Through a partnership between PovGov and the Military State Police of Rio de Janeiro (PMERJ), Magaloni, together with Professor Alberto Diaz and other members of the PovGov research team, administered a comprehensive training on microdata and spatial analysis methods to Major Alexandre Leite Alves, chief of PMERJ’s Information and Analysis Center.

Major Leite works with PovGov’s research team on a project examining the lethal use of force by the police in some of the largest favelas – or slums – in Rio de Janeiro and the effects of new security policy on the rates of violence.   

The training introduced Major Leite to essential geospatial and statistical analytics tools used by Stanford researchers in their projects such as GIS, GEODA and Stata, and provided advanced training on Excel dashboards with hopes to help enhance the monitoring and display of information at PMERJ. He was also given the opportunity to meet with officers from Stockton’s police department to share experiences and discuss challenges in police work in the U.S. and abroad.

“Our work on criminal violence and police use of lethal force in Brazil has led us to build solid bridges with the Military Police of Rio de Janeiro," said Magaloni. "Within this cooperation, Major Leite is in charge of systematizing and analyzing numerous crime and violence databases. His knowledge and expertise have added precious and unique perspectives that have allowed us to better understand the quality and limitations of the data we are analyzing in various projects - including data on consumption of ammunition by the military police. I am delighted with his visit and all the conversations we have had regarding the datasets and various aspects about the police and police reform in Rio de Janeiro.” 

PovGov’s partnership with PMERJ has given the program access to several confidential databases containing sensitive microdata on issues of police use of force and dynamics of violence in Rio de Janeiro. Through this collaboration, PovGov has been able to analyze a database for daily consumption of ammunition by individual police officers and microdata sets on statewide homicides since 2005. 

“Major Leite’s visit was essential in moving our project forward,” said Gustavo Robles, CDDRL Pre-Doctoral Fellow and PovGov researcher. “His knowledge and experience lightened some characteristics of the data that we otherwise would not have been able to understand.”

“Stanford University has given me the opportunity to further the discussion on the use of force by the police, its consequences and how to make our work and organization more efficient," said Major Leite, who visited Stanford again in November. “I feel very honored to be part of a debate and study that is capable of bringing transformation to our institution.”