Police killings in Rio soar 18 percent in 2019: data

Police killings have risen sharply in Rio de Janeiro state under far-right governor Wilson Witzel, who promised to get tough on crime

Police killings in Brazil's tourist hot-spot Rio de Janeiro state soared 18 percent to a record 1,810 last year, government data showed -- an average of five deaths per day.

Figures published by the Public Security Institute late Tuesday also show intentional homicides not involving police fell 19 percent from the previous year to 3,995.

Far-right governor Wilson Witzel, who took power last January on a promise to get tough on crime, has made no apologies for his hardline security strategy.

He previously advocated using a "missile" to blow up criminals in a violent slum and supports the use of police snipers to take out suspects from long distances.

"The order is clear: if someone is carrying an assault rifle, they have to be neutralized in lethal fashion immediately," Witzel told local media in March.

He sparked further outcry in May after posting a video on Twitter of himself in a police helicopter as officers fired toward a favela below.

"In Rio, large police operations have become in recent years the main form of intervention by the police," Silvia Ramos, a security expert at Candido Mendes University, told AFP.

"It is a policy based on confrontation and not enough on intelligence and planning."