Survey shows that most Brazilian civil and military police officers are afraid of catching COVID-19
As the novel coronavirus has spread across Brazil, the concerns of workers on the front line in the fight against the pandemic have also grown. In addition to health workers, reporters and street cleaners, there is another large group of professionals who put themselves at risk every day: police officers. To try to understand COVID-19’s impact on the police, the Brazilian Public Security Forum (FBSP) and Fundação Getulio Vargas’ Sao Paulo School of Business Administration (FGV EAESP) recently carried out a survey called “The COVID-19 Pandemic and Brazilian Police Officers.”
The online survey covered 1,540 public security professionals in all areas, between April 15 and May 1, 2020. The results indicate that fear is a common feeling among police officers on the front line, although those in Sao Paulo are less afraid than those in other states. According to the data collected, 59.7% of civil and military police officers in the state of Sao Paulo are afraid of themselves or a family member catching the novel coronavirus, significantly lower than the average figure of 68.8% in other states.
“The survey shows the vulnerability of our police officers in their daily exposure to the novel coronavirus during their work. It presents clear signs of the need for our police chiefs and governors to be even more concerned with police officers’ health at this time of crisis,” says Rafael Alcadipani, an FGV professor and member of the Brazilian Public Security Forum. “We should analyze how other countries’ police forces work so we can avoid repeating the same mistakes made elsewhere.”
Despite being less afraid on average, police officers in Sao Paulo, the epicenter of the disease in Brazil so far, are closer to the virus than those in other states: while 55% of police officers in Sao Paulo have a colleague or family member who is suspected or confirmed to have been infected, the average number elsewhere in the country is 40.8%.
The survey also shows that more than half of Brazilian police officers do not feel ready to work amid the pandemic or they declined to answer this question. Only 39.2% of police officers in Sao Paulo feel prepared to work during the novel coronavirus crisis, while across the rest of Brazil, the average figure is 30.6%. These numbers may be explained by another indicator in the questionnaire. Almost half of civil and military police officers in Sao Paulo (46%) said they have been given suitable personal protective equipment to safely do their work. This is 43% higher than the 32.1% number recorded in other states.
“In addition to these individual and collective protective materials, it is important for public security professionals to receive standardized training based on Health Ministry guidelines. This is essential for them to feel safer in their everyday routines,” Alcadipani says.
In relation to these guidelines, Sao Paulo is also doing much better than other states: 34% of its police officers claim to have received some kind of training, compared to just 15.4% in other states.
The survey also looked at one more indicator. According to more than 80% of Brazilian civil and military police officers, the crisis has changed the way they interact with the public. This is explained by the fact that policing work entails daily contact with citizens, whether approaching them on the streets or attending to them in police stations. “Because there are fewer people on the streets and visiting police stations, police practices have changed. This shows that social distancing measures have affected these professionals’ everyday lives,” Alcadipani says.
More than 70% of the 1,540 people interviewed for the “COVID-19 Pandemic and Brazilian Police Officers” survey have been police officers for over 10 years. With regard to local ties, 35.2% of civil and military police officers in Sao Paulo had no previous connection to the location where they work. On the other hand, 46.5% were born in the region and 15.8% had a previous connection to the municipality where they work. The other 2.5% were born nearby or did not answer this question. Across Brazil’s 25 other states and the Federal District, the numbers were similar: 35.6% had no prior ties, 45.8% were born in the region, 15.9% had another kind of connection and 2.7% said they had another relationship with the region, such as living near it.