The homicide division of the Rio de Janeiro Police Department will start investigating summary executions of suspects committed by officers in Brazil's second largest city.

Rio de Janeiro police chief Fernando Veloso announced Thursday that such killings will no longer be investigated by neighborhood precincts. An emailed request for more for details about the decision was not immediately answered.

The summary executions are known as "resistance killings" by police who claim the victims died in shootouts while resisting arrest.

The United Nations, Human Rights Watch and other human rights groups have long blasted the killings and other violence by Rio's police.

Human Rights Watch has estimated that some 11,000 people were killed by police between 2003 and 2009 in the country's two largest metropolises, Rio and Sao Paulo. A 2008 United Nations report found that Brazilian police were responsible for a significant portion of the country's 48,000 slayings the year before.

The Homicide Division will also be in charge of investigating death threats made against judge, public servants and journalists.