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Debating the military police: multiple case study on the socio-legal construction of projects for democractic reform

Grant number: 21/05078-4
Support Opportunities:Scholarships in Brazil - Doctorate
Effective date (Start): July 01, 2022
Effective date (End): September 17, 2025
Field of knowledge:Applied Social Sciences - Law
Principal Investigator:Marta Rodriguez de Assis Machado
Grantee:Julia Maia Goldani
Host Institution: Escola de Direito de São Paulo (DIREITO GV). Fundação Getúlio Vargas (FGV). São Paulo , SP, Brazil
Associated scholarship(s):23/02405-0 - Paradoxes of democratic police reform strategies in Brazil: what are the trade-offs involved in incremental measures?, BE.EP.DR


The proposed research investigates the reform projects for the Military Polices developed in the framework of Brazil's re-democratization (1988) from a socio-legal perspective. Its aim is to elucidate the existing institutional obstacles for an effective adaptation of these corporations to democratic policing, defined as state coercion that is exercised based citizens' interests, limited by law and subject to external control (González, 2020). Brazil's current legal-institutional framework formally adopts these standards; however, its police forces have been characterized by violent practices which have proved resistant to several reform attempts. The study suggests that part of the reason may lie in the so-called informal institutions (Helmke & Levitsky, 2006); in particular, in the existence of unofficial rules that determine that only police reforms that leave room for institutional conversion at the bureaucratic level (Mahoney & Thelen, 2010) move beyond the initial stages of formal approval. In this sense, the research questions: how do formal and informal institutions interact in the production of Brazilian public security policies, and how does their interplay affect the viability of reform projects aimed at democratizing the military polices? To observe this dynamic, this project proposes to use a multiple case studies methodology. The case studies will be conducted in a contextualized manner, establishing dialogues with the theoretical and empirical studies produced in the social sciences about Brazilian public security and its challenges since the country's re-democratization. The selected cases represent two contemporary projects linked to attempts to reduce police violence: Rio de Janeiro's Pacifying Police Units and the demilitarization at national level embodied in the Proposal for Constitutional Amendment 51/2013. Information on these initiatives will be accessed through analysis of official documents, media coverage of their development and semi-structured interviews with key actors. The data for each case will then be qualitatively analyzed and triangulated to reconstruct the political process of these police reform projects, so as to test hypotheses regarding the role of informal institutions. (AU)

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