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Ghana Table of Contents



The origins of Ghana's police force lie in efforts by the British council of merchants to protect trading routes and depots. In 1830 the committee hired numerous guards and escorts. Fourteen years later, the British established the 120-member Gold Coast Militia and Police (GCMP). The authorities disbanded this force in 1860 and created a ninety-member corps called the Queen's Messengers. Military units assumed the GCMP's paramilitary duties.

During the Asante wars, the Queen's Messengers joined the Hausa Constabulary, imported from Nigeria, and formed the Gold Coast Armed Police Force. In 1876 the British reorganized this unit into the Gold Coast Constabulary, which was divided into two forces in 1901, with the paramilitary mission assigned to the Gold Coast Regiment and the police functions given to the Gold Coast Police Force. The Northern Territories Constabulary, which the British created in 1907, joined the Gold Coast Police Force shortly after World War I. This left Ghana with one police force, a situation that prevailed until independence.

During the 1950s, the British instituted several changes in the Gold Coast Police Force to modernize, enlarge, and better equip the force. Of greater importance was Britain's decision to Africanize the police. During the first decade of this century, the British had restricted access to senior positions in all branches of the colonial administration. This restriction became a major concern of Ghanaian nationalists, who agitated against it, an action that gradually caused a reduction in the number of British officers. In 1951, for example, sixty-four of eighty senior police officers were foreigners; however, by 1958, only eleven of 128 senior officers were foreigners.

This Africanization continued under Nkrumah. In 1958 Nkrumah appointed the first Ghanaian police commissioner, E.R.T. Madjitey. By the early 1960s, the only expatriates who remained on the force were a few technical advisers and instructors. Nkrumah, however, distrusted the police. After an unsuccessful assassination attempt against Nkrumah in 1964 by a police constable, he disarmed the police, discharged nine senior officers, detained eight others, and removed the Border Guards unit from the police and placed it under military control. Nkrumah also reduced the size of the police force from 13,247 in 1964 to 10,709 in 1965.

After the demise of the Nkrumah regime, the size of the police force increased from 17,692 in 1966 to 19,895 in 1968. The government also restored the Border Guards unit to police control (in 1972 this unit again became an autonomous unit). By the early 1980s, the police enjoyed respect from most Ghanaians because, for the most part, they were not involved with government attempts to suppress political dissidents or to punish those suspected of trying to overthrow the Rawlings regime, duties normally assigned to the armed forces.

In 1993 Ghana's law enforcement establishment consisted of 351 police officers, 649 inspectors, and 15,191 personnel in other grades distributed among 479 stations. The national headquarters are in Accra; they operate under command of an inspector general. An eight-member Police Council, established in 1969, advises the inspector general on all personnel and policy matters. The inspector general supervises ten police regions, each commanded by an assistant commissioner of police. The police regions in turn are divided into districts, stations, and posts. The police service is composed of General Administration, Criminal Investigations Department, Special Branch, Police Hospital, and National Ambulance Service.

Recruitment into the police is conducted at the rank-and-file and the commissioned-officer levels. All recruits must be between eighteen and thirty-four years of age, must pass a medical examination, and must have no criminal record. Escort Police applicants must have at least basic facility in spoken English, General Police applicants must have completed middle school or junior secondary school, and officer corps applicants must hold a university degree.

Training for rank-and-file personnel in the Escort and the General Police forces is conducted at the Elmina police depot; Escort Police also have been trained at several regional depots. Since 1975 recruits have attended a nine-month course of instruction in physical training and drill, firearms use, unarmed combat, and first aid. Escort Police are given general education and instruction in patrol and escort duties. General Police are trained in criminal law and procedures, methods of investigation, current affairs, and social sciences.

The Accra Police College, established in 1959, offers a ninemonth officer cadet course and two- to six-week refresher courses in general and technical subjects. Police officers staff the college; guest lecturers come from the police, other government agencies, and universities. The officer cadet course offers instruction in criminal law and procedures, laws of evidence, police administration, finance, social sciences, practical police work, and physical fitness. Upon graduation, cadets are sworn in and promoted to assistant superintendent.

Since the early 1990s, the reputation of the police has improved, primarily because fewer individual officers have used their positions to extort money from civilians. Moreover, an increasing number of police have been deployed overseas to support Ghana's commitment to international peacekeeping operations. In 1992-93, for example, a police contingent served with the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia. In addition to supervising local police and maintaining law and order, this contingent also tried to prevent gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Data as of November 1994

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Ghana Table of Contents