The perception of corruption in the police service of Ghana is acknowledged to be on the high side. In a recent survey of 5,000 Ghanaians, the Political Science Department of the University of Ghana confirmed that indeed, many Ghanaians perceive the police as the most corrupt. Though this finding is disturbing, the police administration has not reneged on its quest to ameliorate and eradicate corruption from the service. Over the years, the police administration has received support from different quarters to help in the fight against corruption.
One of such intervention is the “Together Against Corruption” (TAC) project which is building citizens awareness on police corruption and also supporting the police administration to be more responsive to corruption allegation against their fellow police officers. The TAC is a two-year project and is implemented by Socioserve-Ghana, JMK and iWatch Africa with support from Star Ghana Foundation and is being implemented in five districts of Upper Manya Krobo/Assesewa District, Akwapim North/Akropong District and Yilo Krobo/Somanya District. The rests are Ho West/Peki District and Anyawiase District and North Tongo/Aveyime District.
The funding support for the project comes from the European Union (EU), Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA), United Kingdom Aid (UKaid) under the Department for International Development (DFID). Since the inception of the project, a series of engagements between the police, citizens of the project catchment area and the project facilitators to ensure the objectives of the project are realised have been carried out. These objectives included; providing expert education on rights and responsibilities of citizens and the police alike, build the capacity of police officers on anti-corruption measures, nudging police and citizens to take reporting of corruption case seriously, and also encourage frequent engagements between police and citizens to foster convivial relations in the project catchment areas.
The project has also conducted several surveys and studies. The findings have been staggering. For instance, between January to April 2019, the project conducted a study dubbed “Monitoring Acts of Corruption on Roads” in Akwapim North, Upper Manya, Yilo Krobo, Ho West and North Tongu. The study was to ascertain why drivers offer monies to police when they are stopped on the road. The findings were in three main categories. Majority of the respondents circa 82% indicated they pay bribes to the police to avoid wasting time on the road.
The next reason is quite fascinating. Many of the drivers (10%) also alluded to the need to build a good relationship with the police as the reason why they pay money to the police when they get stopped on the road. This reason finds roots in the sociology of the Ghanaian where the sense of “community and belonging” overshadows legal regimes and standard protocols of governance at different strata of society. The next reason was that many of the drivers feared that if they do not pay a bribe, they will be processed for the court.
The main course for which drivers get stopped, according to the study is overloading and open boots. The drivers also held that bribe-taking on the roads for the reporting period reduced slightly. They paid bribes ranging between GHC2.00 to GHC200.00. Surprisingly, the drivers were not ready to change the behaviours, which result in them getting stopped by the police. Perhaps, the intransigence of the drivers is fueled by the polices’ non-refusal of bribes when offered them.
What has been nifty and bliss-point of the project is the community engagements. The project has organised several of such engagements. Through this meeting, the project has brought the communities closer to the police. They have understood the standard operations of the police and also become more aware of their responsibilities in their communities in the fight against corruption. The police, on the other hand, have also appreciated the dynamics of the societies they operate in, and that has positively impacted their approach to the conduct of their duties. In such engagements, the frankness in views expressed by the stakeholder has helped ease the wrong perception each held about the other.
The principal of citizens abiding by the laws of Ghana has resonated in all the community fora, and the assurances from the community leaders in this direction are refreshing. Through such engagements, the communities have also been empowered to report police officers to their superiors anytime the individual feels his/her rights have been violated. Reporting modes, including police hotlines, have been provided to the communities. Importantly, the communities have been made aware of the support independent governance institutions like CHRAJ and NCCE can provide them in confronting the police anytime their rights are trampled upon.
The TAC project is changing perceptions and helping to restore confidence in Ghana police service. These commendable feet, the project anticipates, will not be ephemeral. The often trumped-up stories against police, the project expect will reduce to nadir levels by close of the project. Moreover, the police will no longer be seen as the most corrupt in the country when the gains made under the project are sustained. The project expects that citizen-police engagements be instituted by the police hierarchy to fortify and deepen trust among communities and the police.
By Henry Kyeremeh | iWatch Africa