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Ghana: Akufo-Addo needs new Inspector General to fight public perceptions of police as corrupt

By Jonas Nyabor
Posted on Friday, 30 July 2021 13:42, updated on Saturday, 31 July 2021 00:37

George Akuffo Dampare
George Akuffo Dampare/Ghana Police

With police brutality in the spotlight, reports of rising suicide cases in police ranks, and growing concerns about rising violent criminality across the country, the appointment of a well-respected new inspector general of police is an opportunity for President Akufo-Addo to change the narrative around security in Ghana.
George Akuffo Dampare has a record for competence, and not bowing down to political authority.

The 51 year old joined the police service as a junior officer in 1991 and for 30 years, he has been on a progressive journey to the top, serving in almost every department.

Following his appointment, he will be the youngest inspector general of police (IGP) in Ghana’s 4th republic, if he is confirmed as substantive IGP after a period of service in acting capacity.

He is widely perceived as a consummate professional who has, on different occasions, held to account ministers and politicians across the political divide. “Dr. Dampare has a strong character. He is unwavering in his professional code of ethics and a very principled person,” said Peter Toobu, a former executive secretary to former IGP David Asante Appeatu.

Franklin Badu Jr., a security observer based in Accra, told The Africa Report that Dr. Dampare’s wide appeal and public endorsement stems from his ‘no nonsense’ leadership style. “He isn’t a walk over and both [major political] parties have [experienced] his no nonsense leadership… He is on record [as having] arrested ministers and senior politicians for road traffic offences,” Badu Jr. said.

Complaints against police officers

Dampare will need to hit the ground running: public confidence in the police service has waned, violent crimes are up and the conduct of police officers has been problematic.

There are constant complaints of harassment by police officers especially on the road. Intimidation and heckling of motorists and cyclists by uniformed officers is becoming commonplace as is the abuse of journalists by the same officers. These incidents have fuelled the perception of corruption and impunity of police officers in the country.

In May 2021, some police officers assigned to night patrol duties in Accra were arrested for extorting GHS 38,000 ($6,400) from two commuters in two separate incidents, after accusing them of being cyber fraudsters.

Afrobarometer’s corruption perception surveys have often shown Ghana’s police service as corrupt. The 2019 report revealed that 59% of Ghanaians perceive the police to be the most corrupt public sector institution in the country, while the majority – 42% – reported paying bribes to access police services.

Co-founder of the West Africa Network for Peace-building (WANEP), Emmanuel Bombande, said restoring the integrity of the police must be top on the agenda of Dr. Dampare, explaining that this is all it will take to win public confidence and trust in the security institution.

“Dampare must bring back integrity to the Ghana Police Service and I know he is capable of doing that. Ghanaians are looking for assurance and confidence that the police service will be able to prevent the surge in crimes that is creating an environment of insecurity,” Bombande told The Africa Report.

The first half of 2021 has seen a significant number of violent, broad daylight crimes that have reignited conversations about improving police visibility, especially in busy areas.

On the morning of June 14, 2021, a group of heavily armed men on motorbikes – in a Rambo-style attack – crossed a bullion van in Accra, shot and killed a police officer who was on escort duty and a street hawker. The van driver was left with severe injuries while two other passengers escaped unhurt.

If there is anything to be excited about, it is the fact that many of the young officers who are working very hard will see themselves in him. He started as a constable and he is hitting the top. If he fails, we will be disappointed.

The incident remains one of the most daring incidents of robbery in Ghana in recent times. For COP John Kudalor, a former inspector general of police, preventing such incidents is an urgent task that Dampare must take up.

Ghana’s police to citizen ratio stands at 1:768, far above the global average of 1:500, but the retired police officer says street visibility of officers will be the solution to the rising cases of violent crimes. “The immediate task should be to deal with police presence on our streets and everywhere because policing is not in the office, it is on the streets. He should take that aspect very seriously,” he said.

Thoughts of suicide

The first quarter of 2021 saw a number of deaths by suicide amongst police officers in Ghana, sparking media discussions about the economic and emotional welfare of the men in uniform.

A study on suicidal behaviour in the Ghana Police Service published by Quashie et al (2020) established that 26.9% of officers, in a 12-month period, had thoughts of suicide which were significantly influenced by age, marital status and job satisfaction.

COP James Oppong Boanuh, during a workshop for senior police officers earlier in the year, gave assurances that efforts will be made to address the issue of suicide among officers.

“Recent happenings of junior and senior police officers committing suicide are very regrettable. We need to find a solution. Police commanders must take this cautiously as superiors, so they do not fall victim to the challenges we want to overcome,” he said. But with very little action taken in that regard, Dampare will need to actualise this plan.

Political interference

Freeing the police service from political influences will be a major boost to Dr. Dampare’s personal credentials as well as crime prevention and management in Ghana. “We need to see an IGP who is capable [of] rising high above the political divide and ensuring that there is equal justice for all,” said Emmanuel Bombande.

The country is watching with bated breath how their beloved Dampare will run the police service that has been plagued with significant challenges.

“If there is anything to be excited about, it is the fact that many of the young officers who are working very hard will see themselves in him. He started as a constable and he is hitting the top. If he fails, we will be disappointed,” said retired officer Peter Toobu.

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