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Grella Takes Over Public Safety


Source: Brasilianas | Folha de S. Paulo.
Translation: C. Brayton

Military police officers and judicial police officials will define anti-violence policy.

Grellasays he is taking over “at a difficult moment” and that the PCC is “one of the criminal organizations to be confronted.”

São Paulo is in fact in the midst of a crisis in public safety. The PCC is not an urban legend. A special office staffed with PM officers and judicial police officials has been mounted to coordinate and plan anti-crime actions.

These were some of the conclusions of state public safety secretary Fernando Grella Vieira, 54, concerning the area he has led since November 22, when Governor Alckmin tapped him to replace  the outgoing Antonio Ferreira Pinto.

Grella’s speeches run counter to the rhetoric of his predecessor, and to his new boss’s as well, as when Alckmin tried to minimize the involvement of the PCC in the increasing violence.

In his farewell address, Ferreira Pinto said that the “real crisis” occurred in 2006, marked by a series of attacks by the PCC.

And by a disgraceful wave of execution-style revenge killings by police — shockingly, all recording of police radio traffic was offline for weeks during this period.

“I did not receive the department in good condition. Things are difficult,”, said Grella.

Regarding the PCC, Grella disagreed with Alckmin, who said on October 1 that much of what said about criminal factions was “urban legend.” The governor was commenting on a report by the Folha showing the presence of the PCC in 123 of the state’s 645 cities, with at least 1,343 members.

“This is no legend; the PCC exists,” said Grella in his first interview with the Folha since taking office.

To combat the PCC, Grella said he is not going to create a specific type of police force. “We know there are various group, various organized criminal groups out there,  lacking a name like the PCC but no less dangerous for that fact. But the PCC is one such group that deserves attention.”

For now, Grella says he will not assign the military police elite group Rota to investigate the PCC, as Ferreira Pinto had. State judicial police will take over.

One of Grella’s first steps was to create an integrated intelligence unit, a crisis squad comprising four PM officers and four state judicial police.

The group began work on 4 December and is charged with gathering intelligence on major crimes, discovering what lay behind them and directing the SSP’s efforts to redefine public safety policy.

In his interview, Grella said he means to reinforce police ranks, but that he sees no reason to return the state judicial police internal affairs to  direct command by the chief of the state judicial police . The state judicial police office of internal investigations was subordinated to the office of the secretary starting in 2009 under Ferreira Pinto, but the same reorganization was not applied to PM internal affairs.


Grella strikes one as lacking in the moral resolve of his Rio de Janeiro counterpart, José Mariano Benincá Beltrame, who in the past six years or so, among other things, used federal police, the Força Nacional and — in a limited capacity — the armed forces, to get around the corruption that has classically protected the death-dealing criminal in uniform.


Grella is a career prosecutor with a background in prosecuting fraud and larceny. He rose to secretary-general of the professional association of federal prosecutors, then spent 2008-12 as state’s attorney — chief prosecutor — in São Paulo

He is a political animal, it seems to me — for what my opinion is worth — and as such an outlier in an otherwise stable trend — state public security secretaries tend to be retired or furloughed federal police, as in the case of Beltrame.

Gella’s insistence on repeating that he is receiving the post in piss-poor condition does not exactly inspire confidence either. Fundamental reforms and large-scale coordinated actions are needed — like the recent mass arrest of military police of the 15th BPM in the  Baixada Santista.