Women in police uniform - Genesis of the story

BY: Emelia Ennin Abbey
Like their male counterparts, policewomen also play significant roles in the delivery of vital security services in Ghana
Like their male counterparts, policewomen also play significant roles in the delivery of vital security services in Ghana

The Ghana Police Service is one of the Public Sector Organisations (PSOs) under the Ministry of the Interior. The service was created by the colonial administration to produce an enabling environment for commerce through the maintenance of law and order, as well as the arrest and prosecution of people who fell foul of the laws.

History

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In 1894, when the Gold Coast Police Force (now Ghana Police Service) was formed with the recruitment of 400 men, women were excluded from joining the force.

It took 58 years for women in Ghana to be seen in police uniforms following the formation of a nucleus of a new branch of the force, known as the Women Police Force in 1952.

According to information available at the Ghana Police Service, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, the then Leader of Government Business, saw the need for the inclusion of women in the Police Force and gave his approval to the innovation of recruiting women into the force.


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Following that decision, 12 female recruits were enlisted on September 1,1952 purposely to handle problems and issues affecting women, children and juveniles who were either victims of crime, missing or had allegedly engaged in some form of crime.

In his address at the passing out of the 12 female recruits on December 1, 1952, Dr Kwame Nkrumah said, "I am sure when you leave this training depot to take up your duties, you will maintain the high reputation of the women police. You have an even greater responsibility. You will be establishing a tradition which will be followed by all your successors.”

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COP (Mrs) Beatrice Vib Zakpa Sanziri

Policewomen’s duties

The policewomen also performed escort duties for accused women and prosecuted both the juvenile and adult in the courts, as well as helped people, especially children cross the road at Zebra crossing points.

After a year of joining the service, the first two police women, popularly known as PW/1 and PW/11, accompanied Dr Kwame Nkrumah as security persons to Liberia at the invitation of President William V.S Tubman, the then President of Liberia.

Again, in 1954, two out of the 12, PW I Rosamond Asiamah and PW5 Otelia Dekowski ,were sent to Britain on a three-month course to train in police duties. They also took part in instructors course to equip them with skills which they impacted on their counterparts and other service personnel.

Over the years, women in the police force have lived to fulfil the expectation of Dr Nkrumah and risen above the odds to play significant roles in the execution of the mandate of the service.

Though they account for a small but growing percentage of the Ghana Police Service, they play very important roles in the delivery of vital security services in Ghana.

Their contribution in enforcing laws, preventing crimes, responding to emergencies and providing support services to the public cannot be over emphasised.

Gender biases

Despite the achievement of women in the service over the years, some people have the erroneous impression that women are not fit to become police officers. As a result, the women in uniform suffer some form of gender stereotypes as some people generally think women are not fit for the job because a police officer should be strong to withstand the hazards of the job.

"No matter how often a woman proves herself worthy of the job, the mere fact that she is a woman means she cannot do the job and she has to prove her worth before she would be given thumbs up," the Director General in charge of the Human Resource Development Unit of the Ghana Police Service, Commissioner of Police (COP), Mrs Beatrice Vib Zakpa Sanziri, said.

She, however, discounted the common misconception that women should not be police officers because it was an aggressive job.

Research and history have disproved the notion that women are not suited for law enforcement. The United States of America (USA) National Centre for Women & Policing data shows female police officers traditionally employ a style of conflict resolution that puts communication before physical confrontation.

Female officers also reduce the risk of accusations of impropriety by their male co-workers when they search female suspects and prisoners, according to a study by the same centre.

In a similar vein, Mrs Sanziri stated, female officers were particularly effective in situations involving other women, for instance in cases of sexual assault or child molestation "because people open up more to the sensitivity of a female officer."

Currently, there are 8,613 policewomen out of about 33,000 police population.

The number includes 215 women senior-commissioned police officers who are between the ranks of constables, sergeants to–lower ranks with most of them being key appointment holders with various units or on secondment on United Nations (UN) mission.

Significant roles

Mrs Sanziri was happy that police women who did not have equal opportunities as their male counterparts had now risen above the odds and were playing significant roles in the delivery of vital security services in Ghana.

“They now compete favourably for promotions, command appointments, peacekeeping deployments among others,” she said.

She called for the adoption of a gender policy based on international best practices, as a matter of urgency, to ensure gender mainstreaming in the service.

She said the Police Ladies Association (POLAS), which she headed as the president, was playing an important role in that direction.

POLAS was formed in January 1989 as an association comprising all police women irrespective of rank to help raise the standard of discipline and professionalism among policewomen, nurture individual talents through mentorship and ensure the welfare of members.

Fortunately for the women in the police service, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mr David Asante Apeatu, recognises their important roles and maintains that policing in recent times was changing.

He said physical qualities such as height, weight and brute strength were no longer major requirements for determining who a good police officer was, but rather attributes such as excellent interpersonal, problem-solving and conflict-resolution skills and attributes were the order of the day.