All FSI Projects

Community Perceptions of Public Security and Policing in Rio Favelas

 4protestor mare
 4protestor mare
Residents protesting against police violence at Mare Favela, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Photo credit: Favela’s Observatory


Principal Investigator
Co-principle Investigator


In attempts to complement the ongoing work on police use of violence and the pacification policy conducted by the Program on Poverty and Governance for the past three years (for this specific project, PovGov analyzed an extensive database on police work - including information on homicide rates and ammunition usage - applied a questionnaire to over 5,000 police officers, and conducted several interviews and case studies with police commanders and officers), we now aim to carry out a research project that can advance the understanding of community perceptions of public security and the pacification policy in Rio favelas, as we explore the impact of the Pacifying Police Units (UPPs) on the daily lives of favela dwellers.


The Program on Poverty and Governance is collaborating with Observatório de Favelas (Favela’s Observatory) - an NGO located in the Maré slum complex - to conduct fieldwork in different favelas of Rio. Observatory is an organization from the civil society that undertakes research and public actions to produce knowledge related to favelas and urban issues, while elaborating innovative policy interventions on the ground with active citizen participation. The organization and its collaborators have vast experience conducting this type of work in Rio favelas and have close access to favela dwellers. They are often recognized as one of the most respected social organizations working in pro of favela residents in Rio today. Their expertise and wide public recognition will be fundamental in establishing the necessary connection with the community and potential participants that will enable the actual progress of the study.


This study aims to collect quantitative and qualitative data regarding residents' perceptions of public security issues and the implementation of the UPPs (Pacifying Police Units) in selected favelas of Rio de Janeiro. The research includes a series of surveys with over 9,000 residents and in-depth interviews with 50 dwellers living in five different favelas that have been impacted by the pacification policy. 


Given innumerous challenges faced by police officers – from causalities derived from the “war” with drug factions, to community distrust and countless episodes of physical assaults from part of residents, added to “corporative negative behaviors” such as police abuse of power, corruption scandals and misconduct - this study could be an important tool to help identify some of the root causes of the problems faced by Rio’s police, opening up a channel of discussion that could help reestablish the legitimacy of the UPPs among favela residents and the larger public.

This study will help PovGov identify and document the current challenges faced not only by residents, but also by the government, as they battle to further advance (and improve) the policy in these communities moving forward. Additionally, based on the project’s results, we hope to offer important contributions to Rio’s police in light of their attempt to improve the work carried out by the entire corporation, which is inspired by this new policing approach. An important aspect of our work with Rio’s Secretary of Public Security (SESEG) and Rio’s Military State Police (PMERJ) consists on proposing concrete strategies to reduce the use of lethal force and improve the police-community relationship.

Given the described scenario, being able to extend the appropriate analytical framework and interpretation of this public security policy in Rio favelas is crucial to investigating into the pacification process and its impacts from the residents' perspectives, as we explore its implications on their daily lives. By gathering data and conducting a systematic and extensive analyzes of favela dwellers' perception of the pacification, we hope to contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of the current conditions of the Pacifying Police Units (UPPs), its possibilities, challenges, and limitations. Additionally, this unprecedented study will provide invaluable data that will shed light on the complex relationship between the police and residents in Rio favelas.  


Vanessa Melo