If a tourist or football fan visiting Rio de Janeiro comes across a “Robocop” out there, it’s not a carnival costume of a late reveller, but a member of the Batalhão de Policiamento em Grandes Eventos (BPGE, Battalion for Policing Major Events). The paraphernalia that PMs will use to protect themselves during demonstrations weighs ten kilos (12 pounds). The Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) was purchased for the World Cup, but is now ready to be used in protests where violence is expected, as practiced by black blocs. The police have a helmet that resists penetration from sharp objects, a vest that protects the back, chest and shoulders, plus leggings even covering the knees and feet. Everything made from a super-tough plastic, but not bulletproof.
The armour is similar to those used by French and British police, but was produced in Brazil. Completely in polymer it is highly resistant to impacts. In tests, police officers have been beating a dummy with iron rods without damaging it.
According to BPGE commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Wagner Villares, the gear absorbs heavy impacts as, for example, firecrackers and stones. They also are fire resistant up to 427 degrees. On his belt, the riot police can carry two handguns: a .40 and shock pistol (Taser). But during the protests, only officers and sergeants are allowed to carry lethal weapons. The battalion, which consists of 600 police officers, has 200 such personal gears. As with uniforms, they will have letters and numbers to identify the officers. The members of the Shock Battalion will also use shields.
According to Lt. Col. Villares , beyond the protective material, the training is being intensified. The battalion is made up of men from other units of the Policia Militar, as well as newly formed police officers.
– At the moment, everyone is doing refreshing courses and training. We will start a specific course to enhance tackling techniques in situations of turmoil – detailed Villares.
Martial arts techniques
Like the Policia Militar of São Paulo, Rio’s police are also increasing their expertise in the practice of martial arts.
– We have highly qualified instructors. Martial arts teachers are giving instructions to use a minimum use of force. The idea is to immobilize and contain the most exalted, using the energy needed, but without violence. There is much talk in proportion to the gradual use of force, but we have to go beyond that. We note that if we stay swapping violence with protesters, it only feeds a showdown – said the commander.
To Villares, special equipment will make his men approach the most exalted protesters and reduce the number of injuries to police. The only downside is that, during a protest, the police officer walks an average of 10 to 15 kilometres. With more personal gear, the mobility of the police officer is somewhat impaired. Although gas masks have been acquired, the battalion hasn’t the intention to use them often.
– The police training also includes an increased tolerance to gas. Our idea is to reach conciliation, but the canisters always will be at hand, because they are important. We will not allow attacks on public and private property, or burning busses or injuring police officers and good people –
source: O Globo