Police in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro arrested one of the most wanted drug lords in the country on December 6. A few of the officers used the opportunity to pose for smiling selfies with him.

Just under 3,000 police officers and soldiers participated in the December 6 arrest of notorious drug lord Rogerio Avelino da Silva – nicknamed "Rogerio 157" – in the northern part of Rio. Rogerio 157 was cornered when the army surrounded the favela called Arará, where he was hiding.

Rogerio 157 is suspected of being the ringleader of drug trafficking operations in Rocinha, one of Rio’s largest favelas, which has been rocked by a wave of violence that began in September. Police were offering 5,000 réais [equivalent to roughly €13,000] to anyone who could offer information about his whereabouts.

Up until now, the drug lord had always managed to slip nimbly through the police’s grasp. When he was finally caught on Sunday, the police celebrated, calling it “a very important arrest for Brazilian society”. However, the credibility of the entire operation was called into question when several members of the security forces took to social media to post photos of themselves posing (and grinning) with Rogerio 157.

In one photo, the newly arrested drug lord is sitting on a chair in handcuffs. Seven uniformed agents pose next to him, looking for all the world like fans posing with their hero. A second, even more surreal image shows one of the officers practically leaning on Rogerio’s shoulder. The two men are both grinning.

The photos were widely shared on social media.

Police say criminals should not be “glamorised”

However, it turns out that this isn’t the first time that officers have let their desire for a selfie get the better of them. The local press revealed that one of the police women who posed for a picture with Rogerio 157 also took a selfie with singer Naldo Benny, who was arrested on the same day as the drug lord. [The artist was arrested for illegal possession of a firearm after he was reported for assaulting his wife.]

The head of local security forces, Roberto Sá, said that his staff had launched an investigation into the matter. "There was a euphoria among police officers that "got out of hand", he said in an attempt to justify the actions in front of a group of journalists. Sá also said it was important not to “glamorise” criminals.
However, the story has already stirred up controversy in Brazil.
"Police in Rio de Janeiro smile while taking selfies with ‘Rogerio 157’ after his arrest. Security in Rio de Janeiro is clearly failing,” tweeted Monique Cheker, the public prosecutor in the Brazilian city of Petrópolis.

"How many police officers and residents have died in clashes between the police and drug traffickers in the favela of Rocinha? And now that they’ve finally arrested the head of trafficking, what do the police officers do? They take a ‘selfie’ with him […]”, complained one person on Twitter.

Previously, Rogerio 157 was known as the right-hand man of Antonio Francisco Bonfim Lopes, alias "Nem", the former drug lord of Rocinha, who has been behind bars since 2011. But, last September, their ring split into two different factions and a bloody civil war broke out. For a week, thousands of soldiers were deployed to the area to try to restore order.
Ahead of the 2016 Olympic Games, the government of the state of Rio changed strategies in their war on organised crime and began a new policy of deploying units of “pacification police” to certain favelas. But a year and a half later,the Brazilian city is experiencing a new wave of violence, heightened by a growing economic crisis.