# Geoestrategia


This study addresses the police forces of Brazil and that of the United States of America in regard to its military nature. This dissertation makes many comparisons between the two, especially their military ethics and aesthetics aspects. The US police force in its municipal, state and federal scopes are analyzed and a correlation is then made to related activities within the police forces of Brazil. A brief analysis of the historical evolution of the two police models show how the Anglo-Saxon model helped shape the American police while the Brazilian military police descended from the French structure, also known as gendarmerie. Structure aspects and specific activities entrusted to each respective police and their functions are carefully described, such as the different admission requirements into the two police models. A combination of both inductive and deductive methods is used to further understand these concepts. The most important methodology applied here is the use of comparisons, obtained through field research conducted in the United States for a better comprehension. The overall conclusion shows the similarities between the two countries and their adopted police models, perceived throughout the article.

Keywords: Police studies. Brazilian police. Comparative police. American police.



The title of this research, “A COMPARATIVE POLICE STUDY: BRAZIL AND THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA”, is in the Centro Interdisciplinar de Estudos sobre Polícia e Segurança Pública – within the Estudos sobre Polícia e Segurança Pública field of research – Estudos em Organizações Policiais.

The study addresses the police forces of Brazil and that of the United States of America (USA) in regard to its military nature. Comparisons are made between them in regard to their military ethics and aesthetics aspects, in an attempt to assist the debate on a dominant issue within political, academic and technical-professional contemporary milieu: should Brazil’s ostensible police remain military police or be demilitarized as shown recently in the USA? What are the differences and similarities between the police model of Brazil and that of the United States from a military ethics and aesthetics perspective, to benefit the end of such operations for its effectiveness?

An important aspect of current Brazilian society, such as public security, was analyzed with its main focus, cutting out the preventive-ostensive police, being front and center. In a nation that can reach a figure of sixty thousand (60,000) homicides a year and in which the number of policemen killed may reach over four hundred (400) a year (solely for being police), the organization of police forces and, consequently, its effectiveness in controlling the crime and disorder phenomenon, pari passu to protect and serve, may have crucial relevance. The importance of the subject matter for the military police, interna corporis, is due to the fact that this attribute, military condition, determines all of their very historical existence.

As for methods and techniques, the research used a combination of deductive and inductive methods. The first was used to test a hypothesis that points to military similarity between Brazilian and US police institutions, while the second was used for factual observation of the two realities for confirmation and corroboration, if any,

of the comparative hypothesis. The procedure used, according to the very nature of the research, was an exploratory method, due to limited amount of previous research – being essentially comparative and delimited to military ethics and aesthetics aspects. In technical terms, the research was developed based on documentary sources as well as field work. The documentary research was carried out referring to miscellaneous articles (books, scientific and opinion articles), websites of technical-professional police reference, journalistic articles and video reports. The fieldwork, conducted in a semi-structured and exploratory manner, included on-site observations made in the USA [3].

The research problem is: what are the differences and similarities between the Brazilian and the American police model from a military ethics and aesthetics perspective? 

The hypothesis generated is: Brazilian and US police models are equivalent in military ethics and aesthetics.

The general objective of the research is to analyze, for the benefit of a comparative evaluation, the similarities between the military ethics and aesthetics of the Brazilian and the U.S. police model.

Specific Objectives:

Present a general concept of police and summarize its historical evolution in the two countries.

Highlight the concept of military ethics and aesthetics acknowledging their presence in the Brazilian and US police.

Identify the differences and similarities of the hierarchy as well as the police posts of the two countries.

List and describe the standard prerequisites to become a police officer in Brazil and in the USA.



2.1 Ascertain a universal concept of police and summarizing its historical evolution in the two countries

2.1.1 Generic concept of the policemen

“Police are henceforth defined as this sector of social organization primarily interested in maintaining good order, preventing or detecting criminal infractions” (MONET, 2002). Among the powers the police received, as defined by Max Weber, is the monopoly of legitimate coercion over a territory. The term police is generally associated with the service provided by a corporation within a territorial and legal limit. There are two historical police models, one in which the police are paramilitaries [4], in the case of the Anglo-Saxon countries, where, for historical and cultural reasons, police forces maintain military ethics and aesthetics, but are not military in the strict sense of the normative model that governs its Armed Forces and individuals. The American police model is inserted here. The other police model is the military one, in the case of the gendarmerie, derived from the Franco-Roman model and currently active in several countries such as Argentina, Chile, Spain, France, Holland, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Turkey, among others. In addition to the military police in these countries, there is the European Gendarmerie Force, with international missions. Military police based on this model are defined by the French dictionary, Larusse, as «military force to maintain order and public safety». This is the police model implemented in Brazil.

2.1.2 Historical evolution of the United States police

The United States of America was colonized by England who passed on their traditions and culture which eventually formed the country.

On account of England have been a Roman province, London was founded by the Romans under the name of Londinium. With the fall of the Roman Empire and the passage of generations, due to the fact that the country was on an island, isolated cultural aspects formed. England opted for a police model distinct from the continental European model.

At the time of the formation of the American nation, as well as in Colonial Brazil, it was common for police services to be carried out by unpaid volunteers organized in militias. In the United States, watchmen or vigilantes were common, while in Brazil, gangsters, groups of men with the authority to monitor and arrest, was foreseen in the Manuelinas Ordinations, which in turn descended directly from the Roman Law.

It was common in England for people appointed by the king to enforce the law, collect taxes and prosecute crimes in cities or counties (shires); they were called shire reeve, and today they are known as sheriffs (DANTAS, 2008).

Iconographic photograph of police history in the United States of America Source [5]: History America

In 1667, King Louis XIV implemented in France the first police force, organized in the same way since the end of the Knights Templar era of the 14th century. This institution was ordered to police the City of Paris, the then largest city of the western world. The Royal Edict [6] was registered in parliament on March 15 of that year and may be considered the birth date of the modern police force. In that same document, the position of Lieutenant Général de Police (Lieutenant General of Police) was created, which would act as the Commander of this police force and whose attribution included “to assure public peace, tranquility and protection, expunge from the City of Paris those who may cause disturbances, take ownership of others’ belongings and provide every individual the ability to work and live in peace.

The news gained global attention and, with the increase of the population in the cities, the medieval model would become obsolete, encouraging changes to the French model. On March 15, 1667, Lieutenant General of Police Gabriel Nicolas de la Reynie founded the first uniformed police force of the modern world, from which many of the other police officers descended. He also divided the City of Paris into sixteen (16) police districts, facilitating administration and policing. After the bloody and catastrophic French Revolution, Napoleon reorganized the police force, giving it the gendarmaries form, the current military police model of the contemporary world, including the military police of Brazil, Latin America and Europe.

In 1829, the then-Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Robert Peel, created the Metropolitan Police of London (also known as Scotland Yard), considered the first modern Anglo-Saxon police. As a basis for comparison, the Royal Guard Police, created in Brazil by Dom João VI, was founded in 1809 based on the French model. The British police was created to be just another body of the judicial system. Its mission, quoted in the body of law read: “Maintain the peace and arrest criminals to ensure that the courts can charge them in accordance with the law”. In 1863 the Metropolitan Police of London received its badges and 1884 whistles that could be heard from a great distance. The uniforms should be in the color blue to show that they did not belong to the Armed Forces, which in turn used the color red. The posts were set up with different names from those used by the military, with the exception of the ranking sergeant. The Metropolitan Police of London served as a model for several US police departments, as well as in those established in its colonies.

In the United States, the informal police model still prevailed for many years; they were the so-called constables (constabularies), who carried out policing, enforced the law, and acted as administrative prosecutors for the city. This continued even after the American Revolution in 1776. However, in 1830, the idea of ​​a uniformed police force, which had been a reality for many years in Europe and South America, arrived in the United States. In 1838 the first modern American police was founded in Boston, Massachusetts, followed by New York City in 1845 and Albany, both in the state of New York, and in 1851 Chicago, Illinois. In 1880 almost all the large US cities already had a uniformed and centralized police force in place.

However, throughout the end of the 19th century and dawn of the 20th century, several police officers based on the English model in the USA, underwent a serious crisis of credibility having suffered direct political interference, causing inefficiency, ineffectiveness, lack of professionalism and high index of corruption and violence. In the mid-19th century, the police model had intensified the unification of the various police departments located in large American cities, municipalities and counties, greatly facilitating police work, as they reduced the problems between corporations, the police costs and increased efficiency. This unification marks the birth of modern police in the United States of America.

Mission of the United States police

The three basic missions of police corporations in the USA

  1. Maintain order. Carry out efforts to maintain order and prevent behaviors that could harm or inconvenience others. This is the classic definition of the ostensible uniformed policing.
  2. Ensure compliance with the law. The police undertake the task of having to identify and arrest perpetrators that commit a crime foreseen in the legislation.
  3. Serve the population. Services that the police corporations provide in its daily patrolling are numerous, among them are: first aid, address and tourist information, search and referral of lost children, serve as educators and models for children and young people. An example of education is the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE program), which acts in a similar manner to the Brazilian program: Programa de Educação e Resistência as Drogas (PROERD).

The references aforementioned are enforced by, roughly, more than eighteen thousand (18,000) existing police officers.

2.1.3 Historical evolution of the ostensive Brazilian police

In Brazil, the current military police are based on the French model, gendarmerie, and use the military organization structure. However, the Military Division of the Royal Police, known in Portuguese as Guarda Real de Polícia (GRP), is the current Military Police of the Federal District, founded in 1809 with four military corporations, three of them of infantry and one of cavalry, with uniforms, weaponry and organization identical to those of Lisbon, Portugal.

The purpose of the creation of the military police in Brazil, in the case of Rio de Janeiro, the First Capital of the Empire, was to provide public safety and tranquility, due to the fact that the city was growing in population and commerce. With time, Brazilian police maintained a military format of organization and of ethics and aesthetic, going so far as being sent to the War of Paraguay, where they fought soldiers of the Imperial Army. In the 1930s, a decree signed by President Getúlio Vargas changed the name of the police force of Rio de Janeiro to its current name — Military Police of the Federal District (PMDF), name that remains the same today, even though the capital of the country has been Brasilia since 1960.


Reproduction of the Imperial Decree of May 13, 1809, which created the Royal Police Guard.

Mission of the Brazilian police

The mission of the Brazilian police is defined in article 144, paragraph 5 of the Federal Constitution of 1988:

“§ 5 “The military police shall be responsible for ostensible police and the preservation of public order […]”. In this constitutional definition, it is perceived that the military police have as their mission the preservation of public order and ostensive police activities, which means that the two missions of the Brazilian police are directly similar to the two missions defined in its founding decree of May 13, 1809 signed by Prince Regent Dom João VI.

2.2 Pointing out a concept of military ethics and aesthetics and identifying their presence in Brazilian and US police

2.2.1 Definition of military ethics and aesthetics

According to the treatise Aurélio, ethics is defined as “a set of rules of conduct” and aesthetics is “what relates to the general sense of beauty and of the feeling that it awakens in us”.

2.2.2 Ethics and aesthetics of the American police system

In order to understand the American police reality, two fundamental aspects of the country’s military culture must be emphasized, which in turn extended to the police corporations.

The first of these aspects pertains to the military ethics, which, as a consequence to the United States having been formed and grown under wars and bloody battles, as a matter of survival and pride, a strong military ethic was molded within the armed forces, where the terms honor, bravery, commitment and responsibility acquired a greater consideration than for other countries whose history was not scarred by wars. It is for this reason that former military have priority during the admission process to become part of the American police force. It is presumed that veterans who want to become police officers have already undergone military training, therefore, have already acquired desirable traits from the corporate’s perspective. Some of which include: honesty, dedication, abnegation, sense of honor and morals, as well as knowledge, techniques, skills and attitudes difficult to acquire outside the military system.

The second concerns the aesthetics of the American police officer, so similar to that of the military that, in some police, especially state police, they merge, becoming more military than paramilitary. As a result of this, American law enforcement officers always strive to be well uniformed, maintain self-control, speak in a refined manner and strictly comply with the laws and given orders. All this added to the carefully preserved military traditions, such as the salute, short hair, addressing superiors as “Sir” and “Ma’am”, among others. The same is true in Brazil when a non-military police officer wants to appear more professional and biased within specialized groups, wearing military uniforms, equipment and techniques. This occurs, for example, in the Special Police Operations Departments (Departamentos de Operações Especiais das Polícias Civis – DOE) and in the Tactical Operations Command (Comando de Operações Táticas do Departamento de Polícia Federal – COT).

American State Police in formation, saluting Source [7]: North Carolina Department of Public Safety

One of the most important aspects within military aesthetics is greetings among members of the corporation by means of salutations, which is nothing more than a gesture that indicates appreciation and respect, which is also rendered to symbolic entities, such as the flag or a deceased fellow, which also replaces the handshake and verbal greetings. Salutation is widely used throughout American municipals, states and federal police.

American municipal police in formation, saluting. Source [8] : New York City Police Academy

2.2.3 The ethics and aesthetics of the Brazilian police system

Due to the fact that Brazilian police are military by nature, military ethics and aesthetics are defined and reinforced as pillars of the corporations.

Military ethics acts as a protective wall for doctrines and values foreign to those associated with military activities, whose traditions date back to the earliest professional and disciplined Roman armies. The ethics within the Brazilian military police has a defining role in all of the public security professional’s life, in the case of the officers, a perpetual commitment, who, even after receiving their letters patent, never leave the military officer status, and may only be transferred to the military reserve, with or without pay, or retire. In addition to that, there are codes of ethics of the police, their military regulations and the Military Penal Code, which covers all aspects of their professional life and, in some cases, their personal life. A term widely used in these codes and regulations is pundonor, defined as the decorum of the class, a suitable military term, and has great meaning in case the corporation becomes tarnished by behaviors that denigrates their image and military honor. In such cases, the military, including the officers, may be “excluded from the ranks” and have their letters patent revoked.

The military aesthetic of the Brazilian police strictly follows the military image with its uniform culture — uniforms, badges, medals, posts, graduations, salutation, short hair, well spoken, sense of honor and the most important values: those of discipline and of hierarchy, pillars that have sustained military corporations since its foundation.

Brazilian military policemen in formation, saluting Source [9]: Government of the State of Rio de Janeiro

Olavo Mendonça. Representante Institucional de SECINDEF en Brasil (Security, Intelligence and Defense) Israel-USA International Consulting Counterterrorism. Mayor de Policía Militar / Brasilia, Distrito Federal, Brasil. Secretaría de Estado de Seguridad Pública y Defesa Social, Policía Militar del Distrito Federal. Policía especialista en táctica, armamento, políticas de tráfico, tecnología de la información. Profesor en el Instituto Superior de Ciencias de la policía. Creador y editor de la revista electrónica BlitzDigital y conductor del programa de radio BlitzDigital Federal en Brasilia. Analista de OCATRY (Observatorio contra la Amenaza Terrorista y la Radicalización Yihadista) de SECINDEF e INISEG