The head of Rio de Janeiro state's police has resigned, saying he was responsible for nominating the police chief who was arrested this week along with seven other officers in the killing of a judge.
Writing from the hospital where he is recovering from surgery, commander Mario Sergio Duarte sent a letter to the head of state security requesting his dismissal from the post late Wednesday night. The letter was released to news media.
Duarte wrote that he made a mistake in promoting Claudio de Oliveira to his first position of command as chief of the police department in Rio's second largest city, Sao Goncalo.
Oliveira and seven officers in Sao Goncalo were arrested this week as suspects in the slaying of state judge Patricia Acioli, who was known for being tough on rogue police who turned to vigilantism or extorted money from civilians. She was shot 21 times with police-issued bullets in front of her house in the city of Niteroi in August.
After the slaying, Oliveira was transferred to another police department. He is now in jail awaiting charges.
In his letter, Duarte took responsibility for naming Oliveira a police chief. He said blame should not fall on the state public security department itself, which has made strides against crime the past two years by instituting community policing programs in shantytowns previously controlled by drug dealers.
"I want to make clear to the population of the state of Rio de Janeiro that the choice of Oliveira, and of every commander of a police department, can be attributed only to me," Duarte wrote.
Rio "is recovering its image as a place of tranquility and peace," he added. "The state, its population, each person here who seeks peace should continue to trust in this public policy that favors life, deconstructs hate and rekindles hope."
The head of the state security department, Jose Mariano Beltrame, accepted the resignation, but expressed regret over Duarte leaving.
Duarte "recognized his mistake and, aware of the consequences of his choice, asked voluntarily to be relieved on his position," Beltrame said in a statement.
He said a new commander would be named soon.
The image of Rio's police had been improving as the community policing program increased safety and allowed the entry of public services into areas long abandoned by the state. But police forces are still tainted by the corrupt practices of some officers, including extortion, acceptance of bribes from drug traffickers and involvement in death squads.
In just the last few months, Rio police officers have been charged in several cases. Eleven officers who were part of the community policing program were arrested in September after being caught taking cash from traffickers. In July, the month before Acioli's slaying, four officers were charged with murdering and dumping the body of an 11-year-old boy.
A 2009 case severely shook the image of Rio's police: Officers were caught on camera arresting and then releasing men who had just shot to death the head of a civil rights group called AfroReggae.
Then, as now, Duarte apologized, saying: "We are ashamed. The police have gone wrong."