What would entice a law graduate and a member of the Rio de Janeiro Civil Police Force to immigrate to Hamilton, Ontario, Canada? The safety of his wife and child were a huge incentive and now Detective Constable Fabiano Mendes has been a member of the Hamilton Police Service for 10 years.
Detective Constable Mendes met his wife in 1999 while she was visiting her friend in Brazil. The Canadian native certainly did not expect to meet her Prince Charming in Brazil but the long-distance courtship turned into a beautiful marriage. Fabiano and his wife, Heather, settled in Rio de Janeiro soon after marrying, where he worked as a police officer. She struggled living in Rio for 2 ½ years, and after the birth of their first child, they decided it was time to return to Canada, where they could offer their family a better quality of life, safety and security.
The life of police officers in Rio de Janeiro is often extremely dangerous. When they are identified as police, they are sometimes targeted and murdered.
“Unfortunately, I had friends and colleagues murdered for the simple fact of being police officers. After our son was born, my wife and I decided that it was time to move to Canada. This was the best decision that we could have made for our family.”
Fabiano knew he wanted to be a police officer from a very young age and has long been passionate about fighting crime and protecting the citizens that he serves. As a police officer in Hamilton, he is sworn to uphold the Constitution of Canada, preserve the peace, prevent offences and discharge his duties faithfully and impartially. His passion and vocation are to help others and create a safer, more secure and peaceful community for everyone. He said, “I always wanted to be a police officer in Brazil, even when I was very young. My mother says that I used to say that I wanted to ride in any police car that I saw. Before I graduated from law school in Brazil, I wrote the tests to become a Civil Police Officer in the State of Rio de Janeiro. I finished law school and went straight into the Police Academy in Rio de Janeiro.”
As a Civil Police Officer in Rio de Janeiro, Fabiano conducted investigations involving homicide, theft, domestic violence, and fraud among other types of investigations. It was a very challenging and rewarding job despite the difficulties faced by police officers in Brazil. He feels that unfortunately, despite the courage and strength of character needed to be a police officer in Brazil, there is no community support. Police officers in Brazil do not have the necessary resources, equipment and tools to conduct their job safely.
Fabiano’s hard work and ambition have led to a very rewarding career. During the 10 years of his career with the Hamilton Police Service, he has worked in several areas of the service including general patrol, Marine Unit, Scenes of Crime Officer, Public Order and Ground Search/Rescue and more recently, he was given the opportunity to work as a Detective Constable in the Criminal Investigation Branch. He also volunteers with the Honour Guard.
When asked about the process for becoming a police officer in Canada, Fabiano shared that even as an experienced officer, he followed the Hamilton Police recruitment process which consists of interviews, physical and psychological tests and a thorough background investigation. After he received his employment offer from the Hamilton Police Service, he attended the Ontario Police College for his initial training.
“I stayed at the Police College for 3 months. It was in the middle of the Canadian winter, and my wife and child were left behind. My days often started at 5 o’clock in the morning, in minus 30-degree temperatures. Quite different than the weather in Brazil!”
“Policing in Canada differs from policing in Brazil as all occurrences are treated with utmost importance. Similar to what you see in TV movies, in Canada we are provided all the resources and necessary tools to conduct our job safely and effectively. It’s fantastic! Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for officers in Brazil.”
Now, as a Detective Constable in the Criminal Investigation Branch, he wears a suit and tie but that was not always the case. The daily routine of a patrol officer starts with a briefing with his/her supervisors about occurrences in the city, and about what needs to be done during the shift. A police cruiser and an area of the city is assigned to the officer and the cruiser becomes the officer’s office with all the necessary tools to get the job done.
Detective Constable Mendes’ language skills are an added asset for Hamilton Police Service. He is fluent in English, Portuguese and Spanish and is currently attending night classes to learn French. These language skills help him to better interact with diverse communities in Hamilton.
As a new Canadian and immigrant, himself, Detective Constable Mendes can empathize and connect with Hamilton’s diverse ethnic communities and he shared that this is a very rewarding part of his work. He confidently faces the challenge of breaking down the barriers that are so often formed based on negative experiences members of various communities have had with the police in their country of origin.
When asked about the difference between policing in Brazil and policing in Canada he said that “despite the crimes being the same, the way they are dealt with is different. The level of violence in crimes committed in Brazil is very different. In Canada we have the proper tools, the proper resources and community support for victims. Our police forces have earned the trust of our communities and victims. The vast majority of people in Canada respect police. They trust the police more and view police officers as a friend and someone they can count on. Unfortunately, there is a lot of corruption in Brazil. Brazilian officers try to do the best with the tools that they have. Over 100 officers are killed in the State of Rio de Janeiro alone every year. I sincerely commend all those working as police officers in Brazil.”
“Rio de Janeiro is such a vibrant city. I hope the government in Brazil will be able to resolve the economic crisis, social issues, and invest in public safety and policing. Brazil needs to protect its borders from drugs and firearms trafficking. These serious problems seem to go ignored or neglected.”
He is quick to respond when asked for suggestions for people thinking of immigrating, “If you have a dream of leaving Brazil, it’s not easy to leave your family, culture, and history behind and start from scratch in Canada. But it is very rewarding. Hamilton is a very safe city to live and to raise your family in.”
“My suggestion to anyone who is contemplating immigrating from Brazil to Canada is to be realistic in your expectations, plan and research. If you don’t have the support, it can be very hard. There’s an adaptation period. We grieve the life, family and friends we leave behind. This is a big decision. We need to adjust to a new culture, language, heritage, and customs.”
The most difficult thing he had to adjust to, Constable Detective Mendes jokingly said was, “Other than the weather, which is obvious, we have to adapt to everything else. I had to be receptive and accepting of new cultures. The beauty of moving to a new country, is the integration, the fusion of two cultures. That is the magic of being a new immigrant: you leave some things behind, but you gain others.”
Canadians are known and respected worldwide for being the kindest, most caring, and sensitive people. Making friends in Canada is different than making friends in Brazil, due to social norms, culture, etiquette, and boundaries. To build loving, loyal and long-lasting friendships one needs to learn to be tolerant, respectful and accepting of our differences.
In closing Fabiano left us with these thoughts. “I commend police officers in Brazil! The message that I would like to leave with your readers and all Brazilian communities around the world is to support the police, and law enforcement officers in Brazil. They are doing an amazing job with the few tools that have been given to them. They get shot at all the time and they are putting their lives on the line every single day, with little pay, and few resources. If you want the system to work, you must work together in solidarity, supporting and respecting one another.”