Paper cemeteries: informal barriers to Brazilian public security reform

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Anthony Wynne Pereira


How can we understand the role of the police in Brazil’s public security system?  In particular, have reforms initiated since the 1985 transition to democracy made the police more accountable to the public? This article addresses those questions. The next section describes the importance of public security as a political issue in Brazil. The article then examines the notion of accountability, and offers a justification of the use of case studies from Recife with which to explore the dilemmas of public security reform. In the following sections, the article analyses the impact of two new accountability mechanisms on policing in Recife – the police ombudsman and community councils. The article argues that so far, the operation of these mechanisms has been marked by informal barriers, barriers that have stymied the enhancement of police accountability to the public. The conclusion summarizes the argument.


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PEREIRA, A. W. Paper cemeteries: informal barriers to Brazilian public security reform. Revista Brasileira de Ciências Policiais, Brasília, Brasil, v. 10, n. 1, p. 55–98, 2019. DOI: 10.31412/rbcp.v10i1.559. Disponível em: Acesso em: 30 mar. 2023.
Biografia do Autor

Anthony Wynne Pereira, King's College London

Anthony W. Pereira is a Professor and Director of the Brazil Institute at King’s College London. He has a B.A. from Sussex University and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard University. He has held positions at the New School, the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tulane University, and the University of East Anglia. His books include Political (In)justice: Authoritarianism and the Rule of Law in Brazil, Chile and Argentina (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005); and (with Lauro Mattei) The Brazilian Economy Today: Towards a New Socio-Economic Model? (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015). He is currently involved in a research network on Brazilian foreign policy and working on a book on the formation of the Brazilian state.


Dr. Pereira can be reached at