The Strongest Force – GARRA

GARRA - Sao Paulo, Brasil
An specialized unit of Sao Paulo Police - GARRA Brasil (Photo: João Paulo Moralez)

A black Chevrolet Trailblazer is confused with the darkness of the night and, at the same time, with blinding lights of the city of São Paulo. In high velocity with three police officers, it moves through the avenues of the city towards the zone to the verification in a favela a complaint of sale of drugs and the existence of arms of restricted use in the power of drug dealers.

On the moment of the arrival, the police team had to disembark and continue the search on foot. As alleys, passages, and corridors reach 23 inches in width it’s impossible to use even the motorcycles. The incursion in these urban labyrinths where a twilight predominates must be done with foot and with extreme caution. The Imbel MD-97L 5.56mm caliber rifle also cannot be used. There is no space. Only a .40 pistol will have any effect on a showdown.

JPM 6735 - The Strongest Force - GARRA
A specialized unit of Sao Paulo Police – GARRA Brasil (Photo: João Paulo Moralez)

After walking a few dozen feet, a suspect sightings, the presence of the police and start the escape. He is chased and captured, throws some crap and cocaine on the floor as well as money that was in his pocket. The police officers see all action and continuity of a hunt to the suspect who cannot jump over the wall. Caught by the police force team, he denounces where his cronies are. With them are large quantities of drugs, 7.62mm assault rifles, 9mm pistols and other artifacts.

The cops return with the bad guys to the car. In the ballistic vest the acronym GARRA does not leave doubts about the forge of the policemen who participated in that small operation but that resulted in great loss for the drug traffickers. They are the elite and one of the most motivated police officers in the entire Civilian Police of São Paulo State (CPSPS).

They are the strong arm of justice; They are the strong arm of the Law.

Intelligence, research and special operations

A wave of so-called violent crimes, those of robberies followed by rape, was plaguing the city of São Paulo, the capital of the homonymous Brazilian state.

In the 1970s the population was already tired of living with this fear and the authorities sought to modernize the São Paulo police structure.

JPM 5673 - The Strongest Force - GARRA
A specialized unit of Sao Paulo Police – GARRA Brasil (Photo: João Paulo Moralez)

The ideal model and used as a reference by the state authorities was found in a city more than 4.722 miles distant, located in the Northern Hemisphere. It was New York, which had motivated, proactive police that evolved at the same pace as the city.

The Armed Robbery and Robbery Repression Group was established in October 1976 and has since been subordinated to the State Department of Criminal Investigations (DEIC). Recently the name changed to Armed Group of Robbery Repression but keeping the same acronym GARRA.

JPM 5595 - The Strongest Force - GARRA
A specialized unit of Sao Paulo Police – GARRA Brasil (Photo: João Paulo Moralez)

In 1977, there were 26 teams formed; Each one by one delegate, three investigators and one driver. Each car was equipped with radio and had direct contact with the Civilian Police operating center.

In the 80’s the group consolidated. Through the rounds, he sought and arrested wanted criminals, while assisting any other Civilian Police units in actions to stop criminal and high-risk actions.

It is currently one of the three pillars of the Division of Special Operations (DOE). Created by Decree No. 59.219, dated May 22, 2013, the DOE is subordinate to the DEIC and is the response of Civilian Police to the most serious crimes. In addition to the GARRA, it is composed of the Special Reaction Group (SRG) and the Aerotactic Service.

Its structure is composed of five Operational Groups that work in shifts covering 24 hours a day. Each Group (10, 30, 50, 70 and 90) has a chief delegate who is known as Pilot, its investigators and its own vehicles. Besides the Operational Groups there are also two Special Groups with Motorcycles.

“We also have the Supervision of the GARRA composed of highly experienced investigators, who carry out the intelligence work by analyzing the occurrences, studying the routine of criminal activities, infiltrating the site through campaigns for the elaboration of detailed reports, so that the groups have the complete information for the realization of the prisons. This is one of the faces of GARRA, the investigative and intelligence work that has a very profound impact on the Group’s activities, “explains Dr. Mario Palumbo Jr., GARRA’s supervisor.

The work of investigation and intelligence is fundamental and indispensable. In several situations GARRA police officers, through planning and intelligence, avoided crimes minutes before they were carried out, such as attempting to rob a high-end residential condominium as we will tell below.

JPM 7020 - The Strongest Force - GARRA
An specialized unit of Sao Paulo Police – GARRA Brasil (Photo: João Paulo Moralez)

Two vehicles. A, luxury model SUV obtained through theft. The other, a popular car with a chassis number altered.

Four motorized criminals carrying a 7.62mm AK-47 assault rifle, a .45 pistol and a 9mm pistol-armament for the restricted use of the Armed Forces and police services – were reunited with four other members of the same gang to divide the tasks that day. They also wore black balaclava, plastic cuffs to be used as handcuffs, ten cell phones and two HT-type communication radios.

The goal was to raise as much money as possible with an assault on a luxury condominium.

Everything was ready. And when the plan seemed to be going on in anticipation, the surprise: without realizing it, the gang was monitored a week ago by GARRA cops.

Guided by its Supervisor Delegate, Dr. Mario Palumbo Junior, the head of the company carried out all the investigation, raised the fundamental and routine information of those criminals and planned all the action so that they would be caught at the exact moment for the flagrant.

Without a shot being given, a specialized robber gang was dismantled, and armaments of restricted use were withdrawn from circulation.

Volunteers only

The GARRA is not a place where any cop works. You must like it. To be part of the GARRA, first and foremost, you must be a volunteer. None of his men were transferred to the unit without his consent.

However, this is only the first step and condition for any police officer to join this elite unit.

The choice of the supervisor, Dr. Palumbo, who now has 17 years of his career, followed analyzes of professionalism, technique and vocation. He worked for eight years in the Special Operations Group (including his Supervisor for one year); In the special operations sector of the State Department of Drug Prevention and Repression (DENARC); And in 2011 went to GARRA and since April 6, 2015 is the group’s supervisor.

JPM 6849 - The Strongest Force - GARRA
A specialized unit of Sao Paulo Police – GARRA Brasil (Photo: João Paulo Moralez)

The ability to join an operational group such as GARRA includes being physically fit, able to shoot above average and very fond of what he does. His cops are at the forefront of confronting heavily armed and well-trained gangs, and everyone must act calmly, including in extreme, high-risk situations. Thus, the daily occurrences in which GARRA gets involved are heavier. Being a volunteer and having vacancies, the policeman is interviewed and, if accepted, enters the GARRA, staying in a probationary stage.

“It is the routine that will prove to us, and especially to that police officer, whether or not he is fit for the functions that GARRA exercises. It can happen to him to experience the day to day and to realize that he does not have the aptitude for it. We act to solve the problems and the police cannot become just a problem at the time of a change of shots, for example. In many cases the police officer realizes that he does not have this ability and asks to be transferred”, explains Dr. Palumbo.

The training

Once the probationary period is over, the police officer receives specialized training to fulfill the various missions of the GARRA. This includes the most correct way to behave in an operating vehicle, learn and specialize in rappelling, martial arts (Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai) and advanced shooting techniques. “If you do not achieve 100% targeting using the rifle, the officer does not become eligible to operate with that rifle. We have a differentiated discipline. Another point that I highlight for our police officers and treatment with the population, which must be very well done and educated. Of that I do not give up”, reinforces Dr. Palumbo.

JPM 6600 - The Strongest Force - GARRA
A specialized unit of Sao Paulo Police – GARRA Brasil (Photo: João Paulo Moralez)

GARRA police officers periodically improve techniques, shots, approaches and seek to introduce into their routine the modern equipment and doctrines employed by special police services around the world. There are exchanges in other States. But the techniques are always adapted and modified according to the reality of São Paulo and the equipment used by GARRA.

The weapons and equipment of the GARRA

And an operational team is not complete without the dedicated equipment and armaments.

The GARRA officer basically uses level III ballistic vest, with the option of adding ceramic plates that support impacts of higher caliber such as 7.62mm. They have handcuffs, a tactical flashlight, a knee pad, a radio, glasses and a pistol .40S&W Taurus PT840P. They also have helmets and ballistic shields for invasions in hostile environments or for the control of civil unrest. The support guns are the caliber 12 model 586.2 Pump Action, Taurus / FAMAE MT-40 caliber .40S & W submachine gun and the Imbel MD-97L 5.56mm assault rifle.

JPM 5411 - The Strongest Force - GARRA
A specialized unit of Sao Paulo Police – GARRA Brasil (Photo: João Paulo Moralez)

But GARRA follows the progressive use of the gallows and its men are ruled, even, in the Politics of Human Rights. Hence the importance of struggling knowledge to immobilize a criminal or person who is threatening the integrity of other citizens. The GARRA also employs low-lethality weapons such as elastomer ammunition (rubber bullets), pepper spray, gas bombs, moral and fumigant effect.