BOPE (Batalhão de Operações Policiais Especiais) or Special Police Operations Battalion, is the elite group of the Military Police of the State of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Due to the nature of crime in favelas, BOPE units have extensive experience in urban warfare as well as progression in confined and restricted environments. It also utilizes equipment deemed more powerful than traditional civilian law enforcement, such as weapons chambered in .50 BMG.
The armored vehicles – The “Caveirões”
The force counts on armored vehicles fleet called “Pacificador” (Peacemaker) also known as “Caveirão” (Big Skull). These vehicles are used in operations in favelas where BOPE faces intense conflicts with drug dealers. They are equipped with heavy armament: firing ports for IMBEL MD2 rifle variants of the FN FAL, or the H&K G3 rifle, and in the back and front, .50 caliber machine guns.
- Break barricades constructed by drug traffickers;
- Extract police officers or civilians injured in confrontations;
- Serve high-risk arrest warrants;
- Hostages rescue;
- Suppress prison rebellions;
- Special missions in swamp or mountainous terrains;
In 2004, the Project on Extrajudicial Executions (New York University School of Law) reported that BOPE had been implicated in the killing of four youths under the false pretense of their being drug traffickers who resisted arrest: “BOPE officers falsified the crime scene to incriminate the victims in an attempt to make them seem like members of a drug trafficking gang. No weapons were found with the victims and none of them had a history of criminal activity.”
Amnesty International has stated that, “Brazil’s police forces use violent and repressive methods that consistently violate the human rights of a large part of the population,” and attribute a number of civilian deaths to BOPE in particular. In March 2006, Amnesty specifically condemned the use of the Caveirão, stating that by deploying the vehicle aggressively, and indiscriminately targeting whole communities, it “has become a powerful symbol of the failings of public security policies in Rio de Janeiro. It typifies the police’s confrontational and divisive approach to Rio’s public security crisis.” Amnesty highlighted civilian deaths directly resulting from Caveirão use, and noted that BOPE as a whole, “has been involved in a string of human rights abuses.”