In Brazil, the suicide numbers of military police are explosives. The story, published on Agência Pública, was part of a research grant developed by the agency. During seven months, we investigated the data on suicide and mental illness of the military police in the last ten years. The findouts proved that there is a huge problem in the organization which is responsible for protecting the citizens. Our findings shows that police officers with non treated mental illness can reproduce violence during work and that can result in police abuses and even death. In São Paulo, for instance, one military police officer committed suicide every 15 days in the last ten years. All data used in the report were obtained via the Access to Information Act, which forces the goverment to share the data.
What makes this project innovative?
It was the first time a news website used the Access to Information Act to collect data from the 26 states and the federal district of Brazil about mental illness and suicide of military police officers. Besides the data, which already shows a massive problem in the military police organization, the non-response (even forced by law) from half of brazilian states reveals that the problem is far more dangerous to the police officers and the society than we thought. The project is innovative because presents a new view of the problem, evidencing difficulties of the public security system that were not noticed before.
What was the impact of your project? How did you measure it?
More than 5.000 reactions as likes, shares and comments were made in the project's first social media disclosure. A week later, at least 3 important news websites (Ponte Jornalismo, El País and Revista Exame) republished the project, recognizing its importance and relevance to the mental health debate of security agents.
Source and methodology
We use data obtained through the Access to Information Act, a law enacted in 2012 that obliges all Brazilian public bodies to share public information that is required by any citizen. In order to analyze the information, we sought to align information requests over a period of 10 years between 2008 and 2018. However, due to the deficiency of the public data organization, each state agency sent us information in the way they thought best. Some states did not have complete information about the required period. Other states declined to share quantitative information alleging lack of public interest in the subject. Some states answered the same question sent by different reporters with different data, a position considered by the report to be an attempt to disrupt the organization's own database, which shows difficulty in organizing information about the health of its agents. All information was obtained from the Secretariats of Public Security of the 26 states and the Federal District.
In order to analyze the data obtained, we used excel spreadsheets associated with the storage service on the cloud, Google Drive. In this way, we were able to share with the publishers of the Public Agency the obtained data and to dialogue in real time on the best ways of exposing the information so that the readers of the site could have a panorama of the situation at disposal. The treatment of the data was planned to be of easy understanding and visualization. The illustrations were made by a journalist specializing in comic reports, Helô D'Angelo. The illustrations serve as a break for the long text and present themselves part of the problem observed with the analysis of the data and reported by the interviewees.
Matheus Moreira (reporter), Thiago Picolo (reporter), Helô D'Angelo (Illustrator), Marina Amaral (Agência Pública's Editor) and Bruno Fonseca (Agência Pública infographics).