Public disagreements between the governor of São Paulo, João Doria, and the president of the Republic, Jair Bolsonaro, have, in recent days, affected the largest military police force in the country in terms of personnel. After publications in support of the pro-Bolsonaro act to be held on September 7 in São Paulo and with criticism of the São Paulo governor on his social networks, active colonel Aleksander Lacerda was removed from his duties in the São Paulo State Military Police (PMESP) at the request of Doria, on Monday (23).
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According to the governor, the officer, who was in charge of the Interior Policing Command (CPI) 7, was removed for indiscipline. “Here in the state of São Paulo we will not have demonstrations by active military police officers of the political order. We will not admit any posture of indiscipline as was done by Colonel Aleksander”, said the governor at a press conference on Monday.
Lacerda will also be investigated by the Public Ministry of São Paulo (MPSP) for alleged practice of administrative improbity. Along with him, the agency will also investigate the conduct of reserve colonel Ricardo Nascimento de Mello Araújo, who likewise published publications mentioning the pro-Bolsonaro demonstration.
Colonel Homero Cerqueira, also from the reserve, was another to endorse the group of PMESP officials in favor of the demonstrations on September 7th. In a video published on his social networks, the official criticized the governor’s administration toucan and intensified the call for actions in the state of São Paulo. There is, however, no retaliation by the MPSP or the PMESP for Cerqueira’s conduct so far.
The actions of the members of the São Paulo corporation occur in parallel with demonstrations by police officers from other states who have supported the acts favorable to the President of the Republic. At a meeting between governors held on the same date as Colonel Lacerda’s removal, Doria took the matter to the table for discussion. “Believe me, this can happen in your state. Here we have the intelligence of the Civil Police, which clearly indicates the growth of this authoritarian movement to create limitations and restrictions, with the walling off of governors and mayors,” he said.
So far, the only case of dismissal by PMESP due to a demonstration on social networks against Doria and in favor of Bolsonaro was active colonel Aleksander Lacerda. On his Facebook account, the commander shared posts in support of the President of the Republic and criticizing Bolsonaro’s enemies, such as the ministers of the Supreme Federal Court (STF) Alexandre de Moraes and Luís Roberto Barroso; former president Lula; Senator Renan Calheiros (MDB-AL); and the governor João Doria himself.
As for the September 7 demonstrations, Lacerda shared posts with references to the acts and published the phrase “Freedom is not gained, it is taken. Day 07/09 I’ll go”.
Colonel Mello Araújo published a post on his social networks on Saturday (21) calling veteran military police from São Paulo for the demonstration in support of Jair Bolsonaro. “I see that we, the PM of SP, the public force, we must unite. And on September 7th, all SP veterans will be present at Avenida Paulista”, the official published.
When responding to a comment, he asked the participation of Ceagesp servers in the act. “The Ceagesp family there too, organizes it for us”, he wrote.
Colonel Homero Cerqueira also posted a video on his Instagram on Monday (23), in which he summons veteran police officers to be at the act to be held in support of the President of the Republic. “São Paulo receives the worst salaries in the entire federation. As PMESP colonel, I invite veterans to participate at 2 pm at Paulista. Enough of these illegalities and arbitrariness that are taking place. Lula has already spoken out against the military, so we are going to fight the good fight within the legality and morality and justice”, said the official.
What does the disciplinary regulation and the Military Penal Code provide?
Members of military police corporations have their conduct judged by the disciplinary regulations of each corporation, when dealing with alleged administrative infractions, and by the Military Penal Code, when dealing with possible criminal infractions.
In the case of PMESP, active duty, paid reserve and retired police officers are subject to the disciplinary regulation, which determines, in paragraph 3 of article 8, that: “The active state military personnel are prohibited from collective demonstrations on the acts of superiors, of demanding character and of a political-partisan nature, individual manifestations being subject to the precepts of this Regulation”.
The following paragraph, however, quotes: “The military of the inactive State is guaranteed the right to express an opinion on a political issue and to express thought and ideological, philosophical or matters relating to the public interest, and must observe the precepts of police-military ethics and preserve the police-military values in their essential manifestations”.
Police officers who occupy public or elective positions are not subject to disciplinary regulations. In the case of Colonel Ricardo Araújo, who is president of the Companhia de Entrepostos e Armazéns Gerais de São Paulo (Ceagesp), his conduct may be determined by the Military Penal Code (but under more specific conditions than active soldiers) and by the common justice .
If the conduct of police officers from São Paulo becomes the target of a Military Police Inquiry (IPM) – a procedure that determines whether, in addition to the administrative offense, a military crime has also been committed -, the judgment will be made based on article 166, which deals with publication or undue criticism: “Publishing the military or similar, without a license, official act or document, or publicly criticizing an act of its superior or a matter relating to military discipline, or any Government resolution”. The minimum penalty for this offense is detention from two months to one year.
As explained by retired colonel Wanderby Braga de Medeiros, former inspector of the Military Police of Rio de Janeiro, the main issue of the political demonstration by police officers is related to the way the person responsible for the publication presents himself. “Just as it seems to me lawful for ‘João’ to use his Twitter account to express his opposition to a certain measure or even support for a candidate for election, it does not seem lawful for ‘Captain João’ to do so,” says Medeiros .
“The holder of the hierarchical designation itself must have due care so that its manifestation takes place in the capacity that, in fact and in law, precedes its military condition: that of a citizen”, he emphasizes.
The investigation of the alleged infractions, explains the former magistrate, is up to the corporations’ Internal Affairs, as well as to the Public Ministry, responsible for the external control of the police activity and for the ownership of the criminal action in the event of the existence of a criminal offense. “If the analysis of the conduct reveals only disciplinary transgression, it is within the scope of the disciplinary regulation. If there is evidence of the materiality and authorship of the crime, they can be prosecuted in the military or common court, depending on the circumstances”, he observes.
Public Prosecutor’s Office to Investigate Police Conduct
On Tuesday (24), MPSP prosecutor José Carlos Guillem Blat opened an investigation to determine whether officers Lacerda and Mello Araújo committed an act of administrative improbity by publishing content favorable to the pro-Bolsonaro demonstration. On Wednesday (25), MPSP prosecutors asked the Internal Affairs of the PMESP to open an IPM to investigate the possible commission of a crime provided for in article 166 of the Military Penal Code by Colonel Lacerda.
The agency also asked the Internal Affairs to report whether intelligence checks are being carried out to detect the participation of active military police in the acts called and whether there are actions to prevent police from using their military status to participate in the act, as well as using the corporation’s firearm on these occasions.
THE People’s Gazette requested information from the São Paulo Public Security Secretariat (SSP-SP) regarding which items of the disciplinary regulation Lacerda would have infringed, as well as the progress of the investigations, the existence or not of other similar cases in the corporation and the limits of freedom of expression of the state military police. The SSP-SP, which preferred not to answer the questions, sent the following note to the report:
“Members of the São Paulo State Military Police, committed to the institution’s values and duties and respect for the law, are responsible for their actions and opinions when they leave them. Any and all reports of non-compliance with current regulations are rigorously investigated and punished, if confirmed. The police forces work around the clock to guarantee the rights and security of everyone”.
Members of PMESP and association defend the officers
Federal Deputy Guilherme Derrite (PP-SP), who is captain of PMESP and a native of Sorocaba, the municipality in which Lacerda held command, states that both the removal of the PMESP commander and the opening of investigation by the MPSP are related to interference of João Doria for political reasons.
“Political disputes are part of the democratic system. But technical issues and even more relevant issues, such as public safety and the Military Police institution, should never be in the middle of this fight. Who loses is the population”, said the congressman.
Specifically with regard to the former commander of CPI 7, Derrite points out that the fact that he manifested himself in a private social network does not constitute an infringement. “The public expression of political positions and opinions to the active military is prohibited. But privately, as it was done, in my view he committed no transgression. He is a citizen like any other, has the same duties and rights, including the constitutional right provided for in article 5 [da Constituição Federal], which supersedes any other”.
The congressman also questions the fact that Lacerda was removed immediately, without the possibility of presenting a defense. “If the governor or anyone else has found that he has committed any disciplinary offense or possible crime, that due process be instituted. Now, the removal without hearing his voice, which we call a broad and contradictory defense, is an unfair act”, he declares.
São Paulo state deputy Colonel Nishikawa, who is a retired colonel in the São Paulo Military Police, also came out in defense of the officers whose conduct is being investigated. “When a citizen, at the height of his legal attributions and with the right to freedom of expression, is punished for expressing what he thinks, we realize that something very wrong is happening in Brazil,” he said.
One day after Doria’s statement about Colonel Lacerda’s removal, the National Association of State Military of Brazil (AmeBrasil) published an open letter to the Brazilian population in which it cites that the military police cannot be dysfunctionally employed by any governor, for they are state institutions and not government institutions. “It constitutes a crime its deviation from the constitutional function or political employment”, says the note.
THE People’s Gazette asked the government of São Paulo for a position regarding the cases involving the PMESP police officers and the alleged interference of Governor João Doria in the episode of Colonel Lacerda’s removal, but there was no return until the end of this report.