The Politicization of Ghana Police Service

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19 May, 2021


This blog discusses the implications relating to the politicization of the Ghana Police Service on society. It also provides a critical perspective of the challenges confronting the Police Service in Ghanaian society and ends with recommendations for institutional reforms. Specifically, this blog argues that politicization within the police institution has a negative impact on society and it is therefore imperative to introduce sustainable reforms that are non-partisan and apolitical in nature leading to development of Ghana. 


The image that best reflects African police forces across the continent is that of a brutal institution at the service of  unelected autocratic regimes. Some of the challenges the police face in the discharge of its duties are inadequate personnel, poor  logistical support, low morale due to low remuneration, and lack of adequate accommodation.

The term politicization means to give a political tone or to bring an issue within the realm of politics. Although in some situations, politicization could be perceived as positive, this blog argues that politicization within the police institution is not desirable at all because judgments should be objective, non-partisan and scientific. Most people have come to see the police as enforcers of the status quo. This politicization exacerbates the problems that are inbuilt, for instance, using the police to enforce the status quo against minority groups. But more significantly, police politicization raises questions that are at the very basis of our conception of the role of the police. As a result, there have been many accusations of politicization within the police institution, and this often flow from a clash between the latter tendencies, unconscious bottom-up bias, and bias in management.

The Inspector-General of Police who is the head of the Police Service, is responsible for the operational control and the administration of the Service. He or she is appointed by the President of the country, acting in consultation with the Council of State—whose members are all selected by the President. Naturally, the President would most likely select people who will be faithful to his political cause subject to some conditions as he thinks fit, and delegate some of his functions through directives in writing to the Police Council, to a committee or a member of the Council. 

The Police Council serves as advisors to the President on matters of policy relating to internal security, including the role of the Police Service, budgeting and finance, administration, and the promotion of officers. The Police Council may, with the prior approval of the President, make regulations for the effective and efficient performance of the administration of the Police Service. The appointments and the ranks of officers of each unit, region or district of the Police Service, the conditions of service including those relating to the enrolment, recruitment, training, salaries, pensions, gratuities, and other allowances of officers are all most of the time not based on merit, but rather based on political party favoritism and patronage.

Appointment of officials who do not qualify for their jobs leads to unsatisfactory individual performances, lack of interest in the positions, absence of training, indiscipline due to power-drunkenness. There are police officers who have no interest in police work but work in the police service because family or political party members placed them in the police institution to satisfy the goals of the government in power. The current system, even in a democratic dispensation, encourages partisan political patronage and in effect, not conducive for the development of the institution, and of the country in general. The Police Service as an institution has since its existence served to support the government in power. The police culture also tends to ignore the political context of policing. Policing in Ghana therefore remains the creation of its appointing and funding political masters. 

Often, appointed officials lose sight of the reason why they are in that position—that it is to serve the country  better as a whole and not to pursue self-interests including using their position to improve the fortunes of their families and friends. Some researchers have found that police officers with low levels of commitment tend to engage in or conceal the corrupt practices of their colleagues and may even often be willing to adopt unethical solutions to resolve ethical dilemmas. Poor recruitment standards, for example, have served to conveniently limit police budgets because the Police Service does not spend the money for recruiting and training  its personnel. Recruits frequently enter the police force with a strong attachment to the goals of political parties.  

Police officers often see themselves and are perceived by the public as the representative enforcement of the law for the ruling political party. Even though the police are expected to exhibit neutrality in enforcing the law and to abide by standards of due process, they make low visibility decisions. The nature of their job allows them to use force. The perception that they hold executive authority further leads to police brutality. Advocacy by civil society organizations and citizens is, however, needed to push for the implementation of the desired reforms in the Police Service. 


The following reform measures are hereby recommended to improve the service delivery of the Ghana Police Service. Throughout the years, reforms in the police service have been undermined by political turmoil or discarded because of an absence of political will for change. A fundamental part of a modern democratic and transparent police service is accountability. This includes accountability to the state, to the community, and to the law. However, the capacity either to hold the police to account effectively or to monitor their activities is missing.

The reforms in the hiring of police personnel should, however, not end with reforms at the top. Throughout the police structure, personnel should be hired based on merit and not political patronage,  and other non-occupational and professional reasons.  During recruitments, training, and in setting the payroll of police officers, it should be seen that there is no political party affiliation determining the above-mentioned processes. The Police Service should be professional, firm, discharging duties consistent with recruitment requirements and processes, and standardized training and capacity building curriculum.

 As of now, very often, if someone from a village far away from Accra wants to join the Police Service, he or she must know someone at the Police Headquarters who will push his or her application for selection. Higher ranked officials and politicians push their family members who in most cases, may not have genuine interest and dedication to policing or may not even be qualified to join the Police Service. They are hired just because they are members of the ruling political party, while highly qualified candidates are kept out of the Police Service. A key disadvantage of policing being politicized is that for the duration of the term that a political party governs a country, and from police hiring to their training, most of the people involved may originate from the same political party sharing the same ideologies; in this kind of situation, new ideas will not be introduced. 


The above institutional reform recommendations if implemented with consistency and unbending political will, can result in building public trust in the Ghana Police Service, encourage professionalism, and reduce what appears to be an endemic and systematic institutional weakness of corruption in the Police Service. Currently, accountability mechanisms to monitor police activities are under-resourced and undermined. There is no independent, empowered civilian complaints authority. It is important for the police to be adequately resourced to allow for necessary recruitment and training. Internal and external accountability must be strengthened. The government must prove its political will for real change by leading and supporting reform processes based on existing debates and literature, international good practices, and community consultation. Civil society must increase advocacy to push for police reforms. Currently, the perception of the citizenry about the Ghana Police Service is generally negative and a drastic reform of Ghana Police Service is the need of the hour.

The information published in this article is based on the writer's point of view. Athena Global Education is not responsible for the content or accuracy of this information.


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