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Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – Four members of a crack Brazilian police squad have been arrested after they were accused of taking bribes from drug traffickers in Rio de Janeiro, officials said.
The state prosecutors office ordered the arrest of five members of Rio’s famouse Special Police Operations Battalion (BOPE) on Friday.
“Between August and December 2015, the police officers received weekly bribes from traffickers of a criminal group in return for information on operations carried out by BOPE in different neighbourhoods,” the prosecutor’s office said.
Four members were arrested in Rio de Janeiro under an operation called “Black Evil”, while the fifth member is in Miami on holidays and will be arrested as soon as he returns to Brazil, the prosecutor’s office said.
Investigators say the accused officers rang the criminal cartel each morning to tell them which favelas their unit would be targeting – allegedly earning 2,000 and 10,000 reais ($516 to $2,582) for their efforts.
BOPE troopers, whose emblem is a skull pierced by a dagger and crossed with two pistols, are a familiar presence in Rio where they ride in black pick-ups and vans, wearing camouflage and often pointing automatic rifle barrels from the open windows.
Backed by helicopters and armoured vehicles, they conduct military style operations in the poor neighbourhoods when the already well-armed regular police cannot cope.
The unit became famous after a series of “Elite Squad” movies were made between 2007 and 2010.
City residents expressed shock on Friday after hearing news that members of the squad were involved in corruption.
“We are used to hearing about police officers asking for money when they stop your car and you don’t have a driving license, but I wouldn’t think that those guys were like that, or even worse,” Josias Rodrigues, a city news stand owner told Al Jazeera.
Rio de Janeiro Intelligence Secretary Fabio Galvao, however, said there was some positive news to take away from the corruption scandal.
“If there is a positive side of it, it is the fact that in a unit with 500 police officers, only five of them were involved in that [corrupt] scheme,” he said
“So BOPE is still one of the best elite [police] squads in the world.”