Country Listing

Brazil Table of Contents


Security Forces

Article 144 of the 1988 constitution states that the public safety function is to be exercised through the following agencies: on a national level, the Federal Police (Polícia Federal--PF), the Federal Highway Police, and the Federal Railroad Police; and on a state level, the Civil Police (Polícia Civil--PC), the Military Police, and military fire departments. In practice the Federal Railroad Police are nonexistent, and federal highways are under Federal Police control. State highways and traffic police are under state Military Police control. The Federal Police force is very small and plays only a minor role in maintaining internal security. Police forces in Brazil are controlled largely by the states. Of the two principal state police forces, the Civil Police have an investigative role, and the uniformed Military Police are responsible for maintaining public order.

Federal Police

The purpose of the Federal Police is to investigate criminal offenses of an interstate or international nature; to prevent and suppress illicit traffic in narcotics and related drugs; to perform the functions of a coast guard (enforcement only), air police, and border patrol; and to perform the functions of the judicial police. The Federal Police force is structured as a career service.

Officially, the Federal Police force is known as the Department of Federal Police (Departamento de Polícia Federal--DPF) and is headquartered in Brasília. In addition to the Federal District, DPF units are distributed throughout the states and territories. The DPF headquarters provides technical services relating to data processing, collection and dissemination of police intelligence, and scientific assistance to the Military Police. The DPF headquarters is also responsible for Brazil's input to and cooperation with the Paris-based International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol). Among the many agencies subordinate to the DPF are the National Police Academy, the National Institute of Criminology, and the National Institute of Identification, all in Brasília.

The DPF is headed by a general director, who is appointed by the president. Under the military regime, the general director was usually an active-duty army general. Since the return to civilian rule, the general director usually has been a civilian. On July 8, 1993, President Franco appointed a retired army officer to be general director of the DPF. Many within the DPF were outraged and started an unsuccessful six-day strike. They requested the removal of the appointee, in addition to better equipment and better salaries. Fifteen of twenty-four regional superintendents and 270 police chiefs resigned in protest. The strike ended when Franco promised to look into various complaints. The appointee, however, kept his position.

Indeed, the DPF force was experiencing deteriorating working conditions in the early 1990s. In 1992 it had a major budget deficit. The entire 1993 budget was spent by June of that year, and the force was threatened with eviction from all thirty-one buildings that it rented. The DPF office complained that the drug traffickers were better equipped than they were.

Data as of April 1997