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Brazil lets go hundreds of rogue police

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RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — In a campaign to clean up its police force, a state government in Brazil fired or suspended 353 police officers linked to such crimes as car theft, torture and murder.

Many of the officers had been convicted but were allowed to keep working as they appealed their convictions.

"The removed officers had spent years on the police force after practicing homicide or getting caught red-handed stealing cars," state Anthony Garotinho, governor of Rio de Janeiro state.

Garotinho said he had prepared a second list of 70 prison guards and 38 firefighters who would be suspended Wednesday.

He also appointed public prosecutor Celma Alves to head the police internal affairs department.

"For the first time, police will not be judged by the police themselves," Garotinho said.

Although corruption among Rio's 40,000 police officers was hardly a secret, it became a major issue in March when then-State Security Coordinator Luiz Eduardo Soares publicly accused high-ranking officers of links to extortion, torture and murder.

Garotinho fired Soares for breaking the chain of command but created what he called Operation Clean Hands to root out the "rotten band" in the police.