"The drug money attracts, seduces, bribes and kills, but also increases bank accounts and elects politicians whose only concerns are their own interests."
Sandra Maria Pinheiro Ornellas joined the Civil Police of the Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro in 1999. Since then she has been working in several police stations, especially in the Baixada Fluminense, which is one of the poorest and most violent regions of the state of Rio de Janeiro. During her time a police chief, she has seen violent crimes and death. She believes that the root cause of the violence is the lack of a good education system and income inequality. She argues that this situation creates the ideal conditions for drug dealing: “The drug money attracts, seduces, bribes and kills, but also increases bank accounts and elects politicians whose only concerns are their own interests.”
Before joining the Civil Police, Sandra worked as a teacher in public schools of poor neighborhoods. She saw some of her students drop out of school to sell drugs, because “it is hard to study and it takes time.” Later, working as a police chief, she felt as if she were seeing her former students in the young people that she arrested every day. Most officers saw them simply as drug dealers, without names, faces, or rights – the enemies to be eliminated. “Even with good intentions, the only outcome of fighting drug trafficking has been the increase of violence and death. The continual conflict between drug dealers and police officers is a war in which all of us are defeated. We lose our loved ones, and we violate our principle of equal rights for all.”
Sandra joined LEAP in April 2013. “I joined LEAP because I am aware that I have a social responsibility to help people, and I am convinced that the only way to actually face the problems caused by drugs is through legalization.”