Get access

In Search of Moral Recognition? Policing and Eudaemonic Legitimacy in Ghana


  • Justice Tankebe

    Search for more papers by this author
    • Justice Tankebe is a lecturer at the Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge. This article benefitted greatly from comments by the anonymous reviewers, and by David Bayley and Beatrice Jauregui.


Ghana is widely considered as “a beacon of hope for democracy in Africa” (Gyimah-Boadi 2010, 137). Yet substantive democratic transformations of policing have stagnated mainly because the police continue to act as a handmaiden of the state and powerful elites. Consequently, the reliance on performance in crime control and order maintenance as the bedrock of colonial police legitimacy (as judged by colonial administrators) has survived unscathed. Anxieties about violent crime, mainly in urban areas, have accompanied the pursuit of neoliberal economics and politics. Having staked their legitimacy on performance, the police view these anxieties and doubts about their effectiveness as potentially de-legitimating. They have responded in a highly dramatic but violent fashion, including the extrajudicial killing of suspected violent offenders believed to be the cause of feelings of insecurity. This article examines the nature of this pathway to legitimacy.