RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — A human rights group on Thursday urged Rio de Janeiro's state government to take urgent measures to end what it calls a systematic use of excessive force in slums and outlying areas ahead of the Olympic Games.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Brazil's director of Amnesty International, Atila Roque, called on the government to reform protocols and conduct thorough investigations for each police- or military-involved shooting.
The London-based organization said there's been a surge in killings during operations involving police and armed forces. The number of killings rose from 560 to 645 between 2014 and 2015, and could be even more in 2016, according to the group.
"Police officers are going into these neighborhoods with the intention of fighting the enemy," Roque said. "Their initial response is very violent."
Many of the hundreds of slums in Rio are controlled by heavily armed drug traffickers. Police operations in such areas often lead to shootouts.
Roque said he is worried that increased security for the Summer Games will translate into more bloodshed in rough neighborhoods, mostly among young black men and teenagers.
"In mega-sporting events, you send more police officers who follow the same logic," Roque said. "The natural result is a higher dead toll."
Rio law enforcement officials provided a much lower number of police-related deaths for part of the same period, only offering the estimate for areas where they have set up neighborhood police units.
In a statement, the state public safety department said there were 17 deaths in the first half of 2015 "due to police intervention." The department did not provide more statistics.
The department also said it has taken measures to reduce police-involved killings, such as decreasing the use of rifles and improving training. Since 2007, 2,038 officers have been suspended for excessive use of force.
Rio state officials plan to deploy 47,000 police officers and 38,000 soldiers to secure the city during the games in August.