- Ghanaians’ sense of security has deteriorated over the past decade. More than four in 10 Ghanaians say they felt unsafe while walking in their neighbourhood (43%) and feared crime in their home (41%) at least once during the previous year. Poor citizens are far more likely to be affected by such insecurity than their better-off counterparts.
- About one-third (35%) of Ghanaians live within easy walking distance of a police station.
- About one in 10 citizens (8%) say they requested police assistance during the previous year. Six times as many (49%) report encountering the police in other situations, such as at checkpoints, during identity checks or traffic stops, or during an investigation.
- Two-thirds (65%) of Ghanaians say “most” or “all” police officials are corrupt, an 8- percentage-point increase compared to 2019 (57%).
- Fewer than three in 10 Ghanaians (28%) say they trust the police “somewhat” or “a lot,” a 12-percentage-point decrease compared to 2017 (40%).
In addition to fighting crime, the Ghana Police Service is fighting for its professional reputation. Routinely tagged in news reports as “the most corrupt institution in Ghana,” (Ghana News Agency, 2022; GhPage, 2022; Citi Newsroom, 2022), the police also make headlines when communities protest alleged unprofessional conduct and abuse, as after recent middle-of-the-night arrests in the Yagaba-Kubori District, clashes with youth in the Akatsi South municipality, and a crackdown on demonstrating students at the Islamic Senior High School in the Ashanti region (Media Foundation for West Africa, 2022; Alabira, 2022; GhanaWeb, 2022a; Africanews, 2022; Tankebe, 2018; Boadi, 2021).
While the police service’s Transformation Programme, launched in 2018, highlights the use of technology to improve police performance (Graphic Online, 2018), perhaps the most sustained public outcry concerns police corruption, reported periodically in research by Afrobarometer and other organisations (Essima & Norviewu, 2021; United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2022).
In response, senior police officials have at times publicly acknowledged corruption challenges and promised to address them by improving discipline and standards (Joy News, 2014). President Nana Akufo-Addo has repeatedly cited Afrobarometer findings on perceived police corruption and has admonished graduating police recruits to eschew corruption (GhanaWeb, 2018).
More recently, police officials have described public opinion research highlighting police corruption as damaging to police morale and legitimacy and have blamed police corruption in part on citizens willing to pay bribes (GhanaWeb, 2022b; allAfrica.com, 2022; Joy News, 2022).
This dispatch reports on a special survey module included in the Afrobarometer Round 9 (2021/2022) questionnaire to explore Africans’ experiences and assessments of police professionalism.
In Ghana, more than half of respondents report encounters with the police over the past year, either to request assistance or, far more often, in situations such as checkpoints or traffic stops. Many of these encounters involve the payment of bribes, and the police are more widely seen as corrupt than any other institution the survey asked about. Only a minority of citizens say they trust the police.
In significant numbers, Ghanaians say the police engage in illegal activities, fail to respect citizens’ rights, stop drivers without good reason, and use excessive force, both in managing public demonstrations and in dealing with criminals. At the same time, the survey finds Ghanaians reporting an increasing sense of insecurity and massive disapproval of the government’s crime-reduction efforts.