Teaching police officers about their role in defending human rights

The Centro de Assessoramento a Programas de Educação para a Cidadania (CAPEC, or the Center for Advising Citizenship Education Programs) provides training to police officers in Brazil to help them understand the vital role they can play as defenders of human rights. The training, which includes a wide variety of courses, empha­sizes the human rights of all citizens, including the police officers themselves. The role of police is transformed through this process, leading to improved relationships with the community and greater civic engagement.

Police brutality and torture are widespread in Brazil. Compounding this problem, police officers are poorly paid and corruption is considered rampant. CAPEC’s goal is to create “interactive security,” in which public security efforts are planned and organized together with community members and in which responsibilities are shared, resulting in policing that effectively responds to the needs of citizens.

The training courses are carried out in three two-day modules over six months. To ensure that its message reaches as many people as possible, CAPEC asks police departments to recommend officers who can share their training ex­perience with others when they return to work. Community members participate in the courses with the officers.

CAPEC’s trainings focus on showing law enforcement officers how important their role is in society and how their work affects the lives of individuals and communities. Officers explore what they believe and feel and how they relate with other human beings. They also learn about the many advantages of interactive security, including more effective policing and safer conditions for officers.

Trainers use many stories, metaphors and examples taken from the experiences of the students and focus on educating rather than judging behavior. In this dialogue, officers feel appreciated while learning how they can improve human rights in the community.

CAPEC’s training has so far been used in 25 states in Brazil and with more than 30,000 participants, mainly from the civil police, military police, federal police, traffic police and municipal guards. CAPEC has worked with the federal government, state and city governments.


New Tactics in Human Rights does not advocate for or endorse specific tactics, policies or issues.


What we can learn from this tactic: 

A Brazilian group uses a comprehensive training approach to persuade police officers to transform their rela­tionships with the communities in which they work.

CAPEC’s tactic is especially interesting because it involves a group that has been responsible for committing or allowing abuse and transforms them into advocates for human rights. This approach not only contributes to the promotion of a stronger human rights culture in Brazil, it also directly reduces ongoing abuses by creating a favorable environ­ment in which the police and community are looking for joint solutions to the problems they face.