Take A Tour Through Brazil’s Favelas With BOPE – The Nation’s Elite Police Force
Brazil expects over half a million foreign tourists during 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Considering that Rio de Janeiro is known as one of the most dangerous cities in the world, ensuring safety during the event is a major challenge for the authorities. Frequent shoot-outs have been common for many years in the favelas, which are the slums in Brazil within urban areas. When the police aren’t able to subdue the problem, a special type of enforcer is called in.
Batalhão de Operações Policiais Especiais (literally “Police Special Operations Battalion”) or BOPE, is an elite group of officers that many citizens of Rio fear. Due to the nature of crime in favelas, BOPE units have extensive experience in urban warfare as well as progression in confined and restricted environments. It also utilizes equipment deemed more powerful than traditional civilian law enforcement. They have been referred to as a “Death Squad” by multiple newspapers. With a menacing logo of a knife through a skull and all black uniform and vehicles, it’s easy to scrutinize Special Battalion’s method of rooting out crime.
BOPE is the only option to ensure a safer area for thousands of incoming Olympic tourists. Associated Press photographers took a tour through Brazil’s favelas with the nation’s elite police force. Check out their photos below.
1. A BOPE (Special Police Operations Battalion) officer patrols on the rooftop of a school while on patrol at the Rocinha slum.
2. An aerial view of the Rocinha — one of Rio’s many favelas.
3. BOPE enter the unpacified Complexo da Mare, one of the largest favelas in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
4. A BOPE officer reads notes — allegedly from drug traffickers — that lists the amount that was paid to people who tipped off gang members about police presence.
5. A BOPE officer walks beside a bullet pocked wall during an operation.
6. A man reads a newspaper as BOPE take positions during a raid of the Mangueira slum.
7. An elderly woman crosses paths with members of BOPE while they search homes for guns and drugs.
8. Members of BOPE are equipped with weapons and tactics that normal police officers are not issued or trained for.
9. The close-quarters of the favelas give BOPE officers a challenge. Given that the gangs and militias in the favelas are highly organized, BOPE officers undergo an intense training regimen.
10. A member of BOPE listens at a door while on a patrol.
11. A BOPE officer startles a young sleeping couple while searching homes for guns and drugs.
12. With an emblazoned logo of “caveira” or skull, BOPE strikes fear into criminals operating in the slums.
13. A man is searched by a BOPE officer in a favela. In addition to rooting out crime, BOPE also has a peace-keeping mission of interacting with the community through meetings and sports events.
14. Night-time raids can be a blessing and a curse for BOPE officers. Often times, criminals equipped with radios have knowledge of an incoming raid well before they arrive to their favela.
15. Their motto, “victory over death” is not only a testament to their determination, but also evidence of the fact that even a minor mistake can cost them their lives.
16. It’s not unusual to find a BOPE officer that has been shot back on patrol. Given the favela’s dangerous nature, even cameramen documenting their work can easily find themselves between a gun fight.
17. Simulated crime scenarios, such as this one on a train in Maracana stadium, provide BOPE officers valuable training for the upcoming Olympic Games.
18. Pacifying each favela and its many alleyways is a daunting workout, especially when carrying all of their extra gear.
19. BOPE officers takes position on the rooftop of a school at the Rocinha slum.
20. As if their weapons weren’t intimidating enough, each BOPE officer is trained for urban and jungle warfare — they even hold mixed-martial arts seminars from infamous fighters such as Anderson Silva.
21. Fog hovers by Christ the Redeemer statue with the Cantagalo favela in the foreground on January 4, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. With the Olympic Games set to start next month, time will tell if the pacification efforts of this elite force has paid off.
Source: Business Insider