Image of Police Officer Macing a Child
OutlineCirculating message that contains a photograph of a police officer spraying mace at a young girl asks recipients to repost the information in the hope that the officer can be identified and dealt with.
Brief AnalysisThe photograph is genuine. However, the identity of the officer is already known and has been for several years. The incident took place on 23rd March, 2011 during a public protest in Niterói, Brazil. The officer's actions were the subject of an investigation by Rio de Janeiro's state prosecutor. Thus, the continued circulation of the plea to help identify the officer is pointless.
This protest message, which features a disturbing photograph of a police officer spraying mace into the face of a young child, is circulating rapidly via Facebook, Twitter and email. The message suggests that users share the information with others - especially those in the United States - in the hope that the officer can be identified and face consequences for his cruel act.
The photograph itself is genuine. However, the identity of the police officer is already been known for several years. Nor did the incident occur in the United States as implied in the message.
In fact, the macing took place in Niterói, a city in the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on 23rd March 2011 during a protest about the non-payment of rental and social benefits. The image was included in an article about the protest published on Brazilian news outlet O Globo on March 23rd, 2011. The image includes the caption "Several children and elderly were hit with pepper spray".
A subsequent news article in the same publication notes that Rio de Janeiro's state prosecutor had launched an investigation into the conduct of military police after the photograph was published. In July, the state prosecutor filed an official complaint against Military police officers D'Angelo de Matos Pinel and Bruno Schorcht, in relation to their conduct during the protest. Both children and peacefully demonstrating adults were pepper sprayed by the two officers. The complaint recommended that the two officers be suspended immediately, noting that both abused their power by "'acting unreasonably and unnecessarily aggressive'." The complaint also noted that the affected children 'screamed in pain' and the soldier's conduct was 'shameful, criminal, disastrous and abusive'."
Unfortunately, a later news report suggests that the state prosecutor's recommendation was not carried out. In fact, it appears that one of the pair, Bruno Schorcht, was actually promoted in the interim and transferred to another battalion. But, columnist Ancelmo Gois noted on O Globo that Schorcht's name was "taken off the list" for further promotions.
Given that the officers involved in the pepper spray attack have been identified, this message has very little value as a protest and its continued circulation is pointless.
Last updated: August 18, 2014
First published: 24th October 2011
By Brett M. Christensen
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